Under the Big Sky


Under the Big Sky

A Biography of A. B. Guthrie Jr.

Jackson J. Benson

360 pages
35 photographs


November 2012


$19.95 Add to Cart

May 2009


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Author of The Big Sky series, The Way West, and the screenplay for the classic film Shane, among other timeless stories of frontier mountain men, icon of Western literature A. B. “Bud” Guthrie Jr. brought blazing realism to the story of the West. That realism, which astounded and even shocked some readers, came out of the depth of Guthrie’s historical research and an acuity that had seldom been seen in the work of Western novelists. In Under the Big Sky Jackson J. Benson details the life and work of this true giant on the Western literary landscape.

Benson illuminates the critical details of Guthrie’s upbringing and education, the influence his intellectually inclined father had on him, his work as a newspaperman in Kentucky, and his time at Harvard University. Animated by the observations of friends, family, and fellow authors, this intimate account offers rare insight into the life and work of a remarkable writer and into the making of the literary West.

Author Bio

Jackson J. Benson is an emeritus professor of American literature at San Diego State University and the author of ten books. Among them are five biographies of Western writers, including The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, which won the PEN USA award for nonfiction, and Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work, which won the Evans Biography Award, and is available in a Bison Books edition. He and his wife live part of the year in La Mesa, California, and part in a cabin in the Sierras.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


1. “By George, I’m Free!”    

2. A Smart Aleck and a Wise Guy    

3. Alone in a Small and Self-Contained City    

4. Marriage, Family, and Separation

5. The First Novel and Plans for the Big One   

6. The Big Break--the Nieman Fellowship  

7. The Big Sky Triumph and Tracking The Way West     

8. To Hollywood and Shane and the Move to Montana    

9. Bucking the Myth: These Thousand Hills

10. Down in the Dumps--Drink and Divorce 

11. Living with Janie and Courting Carol 

12. The Old Man and the Young Woman Wed  

13. Arfive, and Speaking to the Young--Earth Day

14. The Twin Lakes Imbroglio and Building the “Barn” 

15. “What Happened to Boone?”

16. Fair Land, Fair Land: The End of the Trail 

Afterword: Fishing the Pishkun 

Notes and Documentation


Also of Interest