Walter Van Tilburg Clark was one of the West's most important literary figures, a writer who contributed mightily to the tradition of viewing the West realistically and not through the veil of myth and romance. As a comparatively young man, he published three compelling novels and a collection of short stories, then remained almost silent for the rest of his life, the victim of a paralyzing case of writer's block. Now Jackson J. Benson, one of the country's fore-most literary biographers, has produced the first full-length biography of this brilliant, enigmatic, and ultimately tragic figure. Based on widely scattered sources - personal papers and correspondences interviews with family members, friends, and others; and Clark's unpublished stories and poems - Benson's biography focuses on Clark's intellectual and literary life as a writer, teacher, and westerner. Benson masterfully balances his engaging account of the experiences, people, and settings of Clark's life with a penetrating examination of his complex psyche and the crippling perfectionism that virtually ended his career, as well as offering up a thoughtful assessment of Clark's place in Western writing. In these pages, Clark lives again, a warm, complex, and ultimately anguished human being. Benson's remarkably astute and sensitive biography is destined to be the book that readers and researchers consult first for information about this major Western writer.
Jackson Benson has published ten books on modern American literature, among them The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, which won the PEN-West USA Award for Non-Fiction, and Wallace Stegner: His Life and Work, which won the Evans Biography Award. Benson was professor of English and American literature at San Diego State University for thirty-one years until his retirement in 1998.