RSS Feed

The Ozarks in fiction: a work in progress

Let’s work together to build an annotated list of fiction about the Ozarks. Please comment with omissions or one or two sentences about the books or authors listed.

Here’s my start of an overview of the Ozarks in fiction with some categories that seem to cover the scope of Ozarks fiction. I have not included some fiction set in the Ozarks which is not really about the Ozarks (there are many romance and mystery novels set in the Ozarks in which the character of the Ozarks is not a part of the story, so I have left these out, unless the author lives in the Ozarks).

Follow the links for more info. I’ve looked for other overviews of Ozarks fiction, but have found only a 1995 essay in Ozarks Watch by John Wesley Hall, which does a pretty good job. I don’t want to overlook any works that deserve mention.

Romance fiction in the Ozarks

Harold Bell Wright’s novels, such as The Shepherd of the Hills (1907), are the prototypes of romance novels, immensely popular but without great characterization.

Suzann Ledbetter

Donna (D. H.) Parker. Donna says her novels are mysteries with “some sweet romance,” which seems like a good combination. She has a new YA (young adult) novel called The Cameron Connection.

Guy Howard, Give Me Thy Vineyard (1949)

The Ozarks in science fiction

Suzette Haden Elgin, a brilliant linguist, well-known in academic circles, retired to her native Ozarks in 1980 from San Diego State University. To finance grad school and support her five children, she began writing science fiction. She wrote her dissertation in both English and Navajo. This Wikipedia entry contains a short bio and list of her major publications.

She also wrote a best-selling self-help book, The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense (1985), which became the first in a series. Her sci-fi Ozarks Trilogy (1981), includes Twelve Fair Kingdoms, The Grand Jubilee, and Then There’ll Be Fireworks.

The Ozarks in Civil War fiction

The Civil War in the Ozarks appears in the finely-crafted novels of Douglas C. Jones, such as Elkhorn Tavern (1980). Also Come Winter (1989)

Dee Brown, whose historical fiction and non-fiction occasionally touched the Ozarks, consistently wrote at a high level, including in Way to Bright Star (1998), which describes a couple of young men who were hired to take a couple of camels through northwestern Arkansas and southern Missouri during the Civil War. Brown’s 1993 memoir When the Century Was Young: A Writer’s Notebook includes the comedic tale of Brown and a friend being thrown in the Newton County jail for a crime they didn’t commit. Brown is most famous for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970), which is a collection of essays about the U. S. government’s execution of Native Americans, and his best-selling novel Creek Mary’s Blood (1980), which is the fictionalized story of several Cherokee families (including several of my maternal ancestors and collateral kin) from the sixteenth through the 20th centuries. Some of the scenes in Creek Mary’s Blood take place in the Ozarks.

The Ozarks in crime and mystery fiction

Hannah Alexander is the pen name of a husband (a doctor)  and wife who live in southwest Missouri and write novels set in the Ozarks which involve medical mysteries, romance and Christian faith.

Rolland Love

Wiley Russell

Randy Turner, Small Town News

Donald Westlake’s Baby Would I Lie? tells the story of a wily country singer who manipulates his defense attorney, the prosecutor, the judge, tabloid reporters and others when charged with homicide in Branson as it seemed in the early 1990s. The local color is pretty thin, but the plot is clever.

Kathryn Buckstaff, who covered Branson for the Springfield News-Leader for many years, has written two murder mysteries set in Branson, No One Dies in Branson and Evil Harmony, both published by St. Martin’s Press.

Joan Hess

Katie Estill‘s Dahlia’s Gone (2007). Here’s an excerpt that makes me eager to read it, from the Book-Club-Queen: “Dahlia’s Gone is at once a mystery and a saga of family love and how it shapes our every action. The murder of the young Dahlia is really the vehicle through which we enter the world of three very different, yet very connected, women. All three women, Norah the mother, Sand the neighbor and woman who found Dahlia, and Patti the officer who was first at the crime scene, are all dealing with traumatic incidences in their past which make it next to impossible for each to cope with the horror of Dahlia’s death. The fact that these women are tied so closely together isn’t helped by their dislike and distrust of one another.”

Max McCoy, Hellfire Canyon, about Alf Bolin, and A Breed Apart, about Wild Bill Hickok and Dave Tutt

Nadine Trees Nehring, Something to Die For, mystery series

D. G. Bryant, Theodosia’s Flock (2007)

Ozarks fiction involving hunting and fishing

Wilson Rawls‘s Where the Red Fern Grows (1961), set in the Oklahoma Ozarks near Tahlequah, is a powerful story, up there with and in the genre of Shane and Old Yeller: I’ve been told that the 1973 movie version was shown at a local coonhunters’ association meeting, after which all the coonhunters walked out to their trucks without speaking or exchanging glances, keeping their tears to themselves.

The Voice of Bugle Ann (1936), by McKinlay Kantor, according to my wife, involves a foxhound and a feud. Kantor was a prolific writer about the Civil War (his novel Andersonville, about the notorious prison camp in Georgia, earned him a Pulitzer) and American life in the first half of the 20th century. Several of his stories and novels were made into movies, including a short story, “Glory for Me” which was adapted into a screenplay for the 1946 Oscar-winning film “The Best Years of Our Lives,” as well as “The Voice of Bugle Ann” in 1936, which featured Lionel Barrymore, Spring Byington, and Maureen O’Sullivan.

Ozarks picaresque fiction

Donald Harington’s best novel is perhaps The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks (1987). I’m also a fan of Let Us Build a City, a non-fictional exploration of eleven places in the Ozarks with “city” in their names, with special attention to the aspirations of the promoters of these towns that never grew. This essay by Steve Reed describes Harington’s distinct skills as a storyteller and gives an overview of his fiction.

Mitch Jayne. Jo Schaper helpfully added these comments:

Mitch Jayne, mostly known as the upright bass player and frontman for The Dillards (aka The Darlings on the old Andy Griffith Show) has been an Ozark one-room school teacher and a radio DJ in on KSMO in Salem, which led to his musical career. His interest in the Ozarkian English of his students led him into dialect linguistics, or “collecting the speech of you’ns.” He is mostly retired and currently lives in Eminence where he writes a column called Driftwood. Originally from Indiana, his teaching career and first wife took him to Dent and Shannon counties, and he’s left only reluctantly since.

Old Fish Hawk (1970) is the story of Fish Hawk, a sole remaining ancient Osage Indian in a rural Ozark area. He is woods wise and also the disparaged town drunk. He lives between the gutter and the woods as he scrapes a living as called-upon expert dealing with a wild bear and boar that threaten the success of small time farmers, especially the Boggs family, hacking civilization from wilderness.

Forest in the Wind (originally 1966; revised ed. 2009). Forest in the Wind is the story, told from the point of view of a fox, about the change to the natural woods brought by the nearby settlement of humans. Originally marketed as a young children’s book — which it is not– FITW was written to introduce those seeking to learn and live by nature’s light and dark and sometimes capricious ways what those ways actually are. The 2009 edition is a restoration to what Jayne originally intended

Fiddler’s Ghost (2007). Steve Clark moves to the Ozark town of Indian Glade with his pregnant wife Lacey to teach one-room school. They move to an old house, which unbeknownst to them, is already inhabited by an odd muscial spectral presence. “Seeing may be believing,” but in this case, hearing and listening to the specter’s tale, and dealing with what the neighbors think are part of it, too.

Upcoming– Working title: “Dam the Glory.” Tale of what happens when the residents of an Ozark town decide to tell the powers who think they are that they don’t want the proposed dam on Glory Creek. Jayne is in process of completing this manuscript, originally begun in the 1970s.

Mitch Jayne’s wife, added this, “Jo: It’s good to know that Mitch was an UPRIGHT bass player. He did a lot of RECLINED bass playing, too, in the back seat of Dean Webb’s Cadillac when The Dillards were driving to California in 1962. (Something he forgot to mention in his book, Home Grown Stories & Home Fried Lies). Mitch was only born in Indiana and has never claimed he was from there. (He was only there a week.)”

Outrageously awful Ozarks fiction

Branson Boondoggle, self-published by Roger and Mike Frangkiser in 2003, is a tangled mess of tales about fishing in Lake Taneycomo, implausible lore about Osage Indians, the threat of casino gambling, and organized crime.

The soul of the Ozarks in fiction

Thames Williamson’s short novel The Woods Colt (1933) tells a gripping story of a family involved with an illegal distillery and rough characters in northern Arkansas and is enhanced by Williamson’s great ear for dialect and dialog. Here’s a review in Time magazine from 1933.

More recently, Daniel Woodrell’s novels depict rural poverty and social disintegration in the modern Ozarks.

Edgar E. Hulse’s Light on the Lookout (1972), surprised me. The premise is not promising–a young man returns to his White River home to try to get a teaching job and to work for school consolidation. But Hulse deftly captures Ozarks speech, traditional attitudes and local politics and provides a charming love story.

Art Homer, The Drownt Boy (1995)

Ellen Gray Massey, New Hope (2004)

Velda Brotherton, a prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction, Brotherton’s blog provides links and background to her books.

J. K. Phillips, Jakie Creek: Legacy of an Ozark Outlaw (2007)

Vera and Bill Cleaver, Where the Lilies Bloom and Whys and Wherefores of Littabelle Lee

Hall, John Wesley. The Hungry Hills. A cycle of thirty-four tree stories from the Missouri Ozarks. Springfield: Hallwtight Press, 1994.

Hall, William G. Turkey Knob Line. A Novel of the Ozarks. New York: Exposition, 1954.

Homer, Art. The Drownt Boy: An Ozark Tale. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1995.

Hubbard, Kirkscey. An Ozark Ballad. Imaginary Biography of a Country Boy. New York: Exposition Press, 1952.

Iris Culver Meadows‘ Jenny of the Ozark Mountains (1989), about a flesh and blood Ozarks girl growing up in the 1920′s and 1930′s;

Marion Dickens‘ Ozark Odyssey (1955);

William G. Hall’s Turkey Knob Line (1954)

Speer Morgan, Frog Gig and Other Stories.

Skip Hays

I have not read Gary Blackwood’s well-regarded novels, such as Moonshine (1999).

Gary Forrester, Houseboating in the Ozarks (2006)

Newton Thornburg, Cutter and Bone, Black Angus

Forest Gander, As a Friend  (2008)

David R. Yale, Say No to Naked Women (2008). The author wrote, “Set in Arkansas in the 1970s, this coming of age story is interwoven with Arkansas oral history gathered by the author and available nowhere else.” You can read more at http://www.sayingnotonakedwomen.com.

Jonis Agee, South of Resurrection (1997)

Terry Piper, Ozark Girl

Leroy Tucker’s , “Folk Liar of the Ozarks,” is a blog that contains fiction and tales. He recently posted this note, “Almost everything I write is set in my fictional town of Climax Arkansas. I move around in time because to me, Climax was always there and I merely tell stories about what might have happened or might someday happen or something like that, stories that I don’t understand any more than you do and I can’t tell what is coming next either. There is no beginning and I suppose the end will come when I die or become physically unable to continue. Certainly there is no plan and never will be.
In the short run we will follow some families to Arvin California. Arvin because it is a real place and was a real place in 1936 when I went there and lived there for eighteen months along with my young parents. I was five.”

About these ads

34 responses »

  1. Why is it that everybody seems to think that the Matt/Sammy romance is the central story of Shepherd of the Hills when it is a relatively minor part of the B-plot? Shepherd is not really a romance; it is a moral tale.

    Reply
    • Kelly,
      Thanks for commenting. Placing novels in categories invites discussion.

      My reason for placing Shepherd of the Hills in the romance category doesn’t have to do merely with the romance of Young Matt and Sammy Lane, but with several aspects of the characterization and plot of the novel. I agree that it’s a moral tale, which doesn’t exclude it from being a romance novel.

      The characters are pretty much one-dimensional. There’s a brute, a fool, an idiot who we learn from, star-crossed lovers, a mad artist, a wise old couple, and a mysterious stranger.

      The plot involves feats of physical strength, implausible coincidences, mistaken identity, passionate young love, and forgiveness and redemption. Goodness wins.

      This is the stuff of romance novels, through the novels of Walter Scott through Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters and Margaret Mitchell, to today’s romance genre novels.

      It ain’t Hemingway or Elmore Leonard.

  2. Soul of Ozarks Fiction: Hedwig — Vance Randolph. The dust jacket description: Hedwig is the story of a German-Russian girl who comes to the Ozarks by way of Kansas and Oklahoma.

    What makes this novel most interesting to me is the inscription, by the author, handwritten in my copy:

    Dear Lucille Morris:
    The fact that you will not like this book disturbs me, because I know that there are so many people who will agree with you.
    Vance Randolph, Topeka, Kan, June 6, 1935.

    Crime and Mystery Fiction:

    Girl Scouts in the Ozarks — Nancy Nance w/ Vance Randolph. 1935

    The Camp-Meeting Murders — Vance Randolph and Nancy Clemens (pseudonym of Nancy Nance) 1936

    Reply
    • Jim,
      Thanks for suggesting these two books by Vance Randolph, who is not known for his fiction.

      Vance Randolph collected stories, songs, figures of speech, and other bits of Ozarks culture from about 1920 through 1970. He died in 1980.

    • Girl Scouts in the Ozarks is a great book and it takes place in my town of Galena, MO. Most of the characters and places are real. I would love to have another copy of this for my grandchildren, but I am unable to find one.
      Nancy Nance received advice from Galena resident and famed Ozark
      writer, Vance Randolph, when writing this book.

  3. Rose Wilder Lane — Cindy, A story of the Ozarks

    Mitch Jayne novels — Old Fish Hawk, Forest in the Wind, Fiddler’s Ghost. Upcoming “Dam the Glory.”

    Roger Lea McBride — Little House on Rocky Ridge kids fiction sequel series based on the early life of Rose Wilder Lane.

    From other page: Trixie Belden and the Mystery at Bob-White Cave,(#11), Kathryn Kenny 1963. girl’s mystery series. It definitely has well-researched Ozarkish background as well as characters and setting.

    It’s interesting what is being considered “fiction.” Fiction as a “made up story” would to my mind include Randolph’s popular folktale collections such as “Who Blowed Up the Church House” and “Pissing in the Snow” which were issued as popular fiction, not just academic tomes. Although the kernel of these stories may be from olde England, by the time the hillfolk got done with them they were as muley and wrapped in Ozark veneer as to be indistinguishable from so-called original work.

    It wouldn’t be stretching a point too far to include the Paul Henning TV series, since all three were locationally intertwined, if not as obviously Ozarky, as the flagship Beverly Hillbillies, which made no secret about its relationship to SW Missouri. In a similar vein, Al Capp’s Dogpatch empire is nothing if not Ozark. Not serious novels. Definitely fiction.

    On the Ozark fringes, I might include some of the science fiction of Robert Heinlein, native of Butler, Missouri. He often intertwined Ozarks/Kansas City/western Missouri into his space-and time escapades…One obvious example being the short story “The Green Hills of Earth” –in which a dying blind space engineer/poet waxes poetic about “his native Ozarks.” It became the title piece for a 1960s RH short story collection. Or the Oedipal tones of “Time Enough For Love” with sections set at Camp Crowder and Kansas City, and points inbetween?

    Where do Ozark ghost, treasure and howler stories fall in this recitation? And the vast collection of original hill-music story songs?

    I don’t think Ozarkers have a very clear demarcation between the whole truth and the wholly made up, and we’ve made a science of it. We love improving on reality, and sometimes we get so good at it we even confuse ourselves.

    Reply
    • Jo,
      Thanks for putting that together.

      It’s really difficult to draw lines to create categories. But I’m not afraid to be arbitrary.

      For now, I’m just collecting information about children’s fiction set in the Ozarks. The best children’s literature, of course, is entertaining to people of any age, but most of it isn’t interesting to most adults. Maybe I’ll have an entire page devoted to children’s fiction set in the Ozarks.

      A more difficult distinction is between what publishers refer to as YA (Young Adult) fiction, formerly called Juvenile. A lot of boy or girl-and-dog stories fit here. My wife still reads them eagerly.

      I’d love it if you would give us a sentence or two about each of Mitch Jayne’s novels.

  4. So glad to see you have included my novel, Jakie Creek, in your annotated list!

    – Jan Mintiens (aka JK Phillips)

    Reply
  5. Mitch Jayne, mostly known as the upright bass player and frontman for The Dillards (aka The Darlings on the old Andy Griffith Show) has been an Ozark one-room school teacher and a radio DJ in on KSMO in Salem, which led to his musical career. His interest in the Ozarkian English of his students led him into dialect linguistics, or “collecting the speech of you’ns.” He is mostly retired and currently lives in Eminence where he writes a column called Driftwood. Originally from Indiana, his teaching career and first wife took him to Dent and Shannon counties, and he’s left only reluctantly since.

    Old Fish Hawk (1970) is the story of Fish Hawk, a sole remaining ancient Osage Indian in a rural Ozark area. He is woods wise and also the disparaged town drunk. He lives between the gutter and the woods as he scrapes a living as called-upon expert dealing with a wild bear and boar that threaten the success of small time farmers, especially the Boggs family, hacking civilization from wilderness.

    Forest in the Wind (originally 1966; revised ed. 2009). Forest in the Wind is the story, told from the point of view of a fox, about the change to the natural woods brought by the nearby settlement of humans. Originally marketed as a young children’s book — which it is not– FITW was written to introduce those seeking to learn and live by nature’s light and dark and sometimes capricious ways what those ways actually are. The 2009 edition is a restoration to what Jayne originally intended

    Fiddler’s Ghost (2007). Steve Clark moves to the Ozark town of Indian Glade with his pregnant wife Lacey to teach one-room school. They move to an old house, which unbeknownst to them, is already inhabited by an odd muscial spectral presence. “Seeing may be believing,” but in this case, hearing and listening to the specter’s tale, and dealing with what the neighbors think are part of it, too.

    Upcoming– Working title: “Dam the Glory.” Tale of what happens when the residents of an Ozark town decide to tell the powers who think they are that they don’t want the proposed dam on Glory Creek. Jayne is in process of completing this manuscript, originally begun in the 1970s.

    Reply
    • Jo: It’s good to know that Mitch was an UPRIGHT bass player.

      He did a lot of RECLINED bass playing, too, in the back seat of Dean Webb’s Cadillac when The Dillards were driving to California in 1962. (Something he forgot to mention in his book, “Home Grown Stories & Home Fried Lies.”)

      Mitch was only born in Indiana and has never claimed he was from there. (He was only there a week.)

  6. More information on my novel, Saying No to Naked Women:

    Set in Arkansas in the 1970s, this coming of age story is interwoven with Arkansas oral history gathered by the author and available nowhere else.

    Reply
  7. I just received my Winter 2010 issue of the Fulbright Review from the University of Arkansas, and there is an article on Donald Harington, who died this past November.

    Donald Harington
    Creator of Mythical Ozark Village of Stay More, Dies at 73

    http://fulbright.uark.edu/fulbrightreview/winter2010/people/pe_harington.html

    It provides a nice overview of his life and work.

    Reply
  8. Another Vance Randolph novel, geared toward younger readers, is The Camp on Wildcat Creek. It’s about two city boys spending the summer with Grandpa in his cabin in the Ozark hills. Lots of nature study and edifying information.

    The list could stretch on forever. There is a lot of lore, and not enough literature, from the Ozarks.

    Reply
  9. Thank you for this listing of fiction set in the Ozarks, and for including my name. I grew up in Maries County. Haven’t lived in Missouri for a long time, I still miss it.

    My books might fit better into the mystery category, but there is some sweet romance in them, also. My latest is a YA novel called “The Cameron Connection”. If you would like to link my website to my name, the url is http://donnaparker.w4aw.org.

    I’m looking forward to reading some of these books you’ve mentioned! Thanks, again.

    Donna (D.H.) Parker

    Reply
  10. Greetings,
    I just wanted to mention that the book by John Wesley Hall is available on Amazon with all of his other books. He currently goes by the name Wesley E. Hall. It is a great book , which really gets at the character of the Ozarks.

    The Hungry Hills: Ozarks Tales and Sketches by Wesley E. Hall (Paperback – Mar. 13, 2000)

    Reply
  11. Winter’s Bone – a teenage girl that cares for her two younger siblings and mentally disturbed mother has to track down her father when he disappears after putting their house up for his bail money.

    Reply
  12. Now that I think about it, I think a lot, if not all, of Woodrell’s books take place there. Give Us a Kiss, Tomato Red, The Death of Sweet Mister, etc.

    Reply
    • David,
      At the time that I first posted this discussion, I deliberately downplayed Daniel Woodrell’s books, because of the publicity that they were already getting elsewhere.

      I gave more attention to Woodrell’s wife, Katie Estill, whose 2007 novel was not getting the attention it deserved. Katie was nice enough to call me from the Sundance Film Festival, where she was with Daniel for the screening there of Winter’s Bone, even though they were extremely busy.

  13. The information about my novel listed above is incorrect. The correct title is Saying No to Naked Women. The correct URL for the book’s website is http://www.SayingNoToNakedWomen.Com

    Set in Arkansas in the 1970s, this coming of age story is interwoven with Arkansas oral history gathered by the author and available nowhere else. The title of the book refers to its anti-pornographic stance.

    Reply
  14. If someone wants to annotate my novel, “Saying No to Naked Women,” for this site, please contact me for a review copy. this coming of age story is interwoven with Arkansas oral history gathered by the author in 1974 and available nowhere else. Email me at David@SayingNoToNakedWomen.Com with your postal address, and I’ll send you a copy.

    Reply
  15. My husband saw a book reviewed on televison in the last couple of month about outlaw relatives from the Ozarks. He said it had Angels in the title. I cannot find it anywhere.

    Reply
  16. I added a photo of Harley to my website ozarkstories.com he was an old moonshiner who lived down river from us on the Jacks Fork River when I helped my uncle run a fishing camp in the early 1950′s. The Fed’s arrested him so many times they finally hired him to make whiskey in Alley Spring State Park as tourist exhibit. He was the best story teller I have ever known and got me started writing my award winning novel Blue Hole.

    If you are not aware of this important fact, the Jacks Fork River was named by Life Magazine as one of the most scenic fishing and float streams in the world, imagine that honor considering how many rivers are flowing on the earth. Harley is the reason I wrote an award winning series of fishing stories that in addition to a short story book are now available as a download. http://www.learnoutloud.com/Catalog/Literature/Authors-Reading/Mark-Twain-Style-Ozark-Mountains-Fishing-Stories/40694

    Finally, there are a couple of rather nice short stories available on ozarkstoreis.com that are free and can be downloaded text or audio … Sunny the Goose Addled Dog and First Camping Trip are enjoyed by all ages.

    Reply
  17. Precisely what truly moved you to publish “The Ozarks in
    fiction: a work in progress Ozarks Law & Economy”?
    I actuallydefinitely loved it! Many thanks ,Karolyn

    Reply
  18. Thank you for this. I am hankering for the Ozarks and vicarious visit through fiction might help for now.

    Reply
  19. I would like to book mark this posting, “The Ozarks in fiction:
    a work in progress | Ozarks Law & Economy” thehoodgang on my own site.
    Do you care in the event I reallydo? Thanks ,Hershel

    Reply
  20. There are (35) short stories and (3) novels by Rolland Love that are set in the Ozark Mountains Ozarkstories.com -

    Reply
  21. This anthology, Yonder Mountain: An Ozarks Anthology, might be worth including, http://www.uapress.com/titles/sp13/priest.html

    Reply
  22. I’m not clear what the title of this book is, but I think I found a used copy on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B0019ERTV4/ref=dp_olp_used_mbc?ie=UTF8&condition=used
    You might also find it on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Vance+Randolph

    Good luck!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 356 other followers

%d bloggers like this: