Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Winning of Barbara Worth  -  1911
Harold Bell Wright
329 pages
genre  - General Fiction, possibly Literary Fiction
my rating  - 4 out of 5 stars

Three men and a boy are headed from the port city of San Felipe, California to Rubio City, a frontier town along the Colorado River, where "there is only a rude trail - two hundred and more hard and lonely miles of it - the only mark of man in all that desolate waste and itself marked every mile by the graves of men and the bleached bones of their cattle." 

I really like how one of those men describe the desert where Rubio City is located.  "A thousan' square miles av ut wouldn't feed a jack-rabbit.  "Tis the blisterin', sizzlin' wilderness av sand an' cactus, fit for nothin' but thim side-winders, horn'-toads, heely-monsters an' all their poisonous relations..."

Along their way to Rubio City the travelers find a horse on its last legs.  They follow its tracks to a wagon with no one nearby. They see more tracks, but these tracks are made by small feet, possibly a woman.  They follow those until they find a dead woman, with a four-year-old girl at her side.  The girl says her name is 'Barba'.

This is a fantastic book.  Every once in a while, the author would insert wonderful poetical segments.  My favorite is when the author describes the monsoon season of this area:

"...the spirit of the Desert issued its silent challenge.  It was not the majestic challenge of the mountains with their unsealed heights of peak and dome and impassable barriers of rugged crag and sheer cliff.  It was not the glad challenge of the untamed wilderness with its myriad formed life of tree and plant and glen and stream.  It was not the noble challenge of the wide-sweeping, pathless plains; nor the wild challenge of the restless, storm-driven sea.  It was the silent, sinister, menacing threat of a desolation that had conquered by cruel waiting and that lay in wait still to conquer."

Amazon reports that its ebook edition is 329 pages.  Most printed books are over 500 pages.  Also, more than 15 movies were made or claimed to be made from Wright's stories, including Gary Cooper's first major movie, The Winning of Barbara Worth.

About the author  -

Harold Bell Wright was born on May 4, 1872 in Rome, New York to William and Alma Watson Wright.   When Wright was eleven years old his mother died and his father abandoned the children. For the remainder of his childhood Wright lived with various relatives or strangers, mostly in Ohio.

In his late teens he found regular employment painting both works of art and houses. After two years of what Wright called "pre-preparation" education at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, Wright became a minister for the Christian Church.

In 1902, while pastoring the Christian Church in Kansas, he wrote a melodramatic story, entitled That Printer of Udell's.  It was Wright's second novel, The Shepherd of the Hills, published in 1907 and set in Branson, Missouri, that established him as a best-selling author. 

Harold Bell Wright married Frances Long and had three children from this marriage.

Although mostly forgotten or ignored after the middle of the 20th century, he is said to have been the first American writer to sell a million copies of a novel and the first to make $1 million from writing fiction.

After struggling most of his life with lung disease, Wright died of bronchial pneumonia on May 24, 1944 in La Jolla, California.

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