Thomas Savage (1915-2003) was one of the best of the Intermountain West novelists for several decades of the twentieth century. His thirteen novels received high critical praise but low sales throughout his career. Although he spent much of his later life in the Northeast, his formative years were spent in southwestern Montana, and the Mountain West and his ranching family formed the background of much of his work.
O. Alan Weltzien’s insightful and detailed literary biography chronicles the life and work of this neglected but deeply talented novelist. As a closeted gay family man in the rural West, Savage was both an outsider and an insider, navigating an intense conflict between his sexual identity and the claustrophobic social restraints of the rural West. Unlike many other Western writers, Savage abjured the formula westerns so popular in his time and offered instead a realistic, often subversive version of the rural West. His novels tell a hard, harsh story about dysfunctional families, loneliness, and stifling provincialism in the small towns and ranches of the northern Rockies, and his queer West provides a unique vision and a caustic counter-narrative contrary to the triumphant settler-colonialism themes that have shaped much Western literature. Savage West seeks to restore Thomas Savage’s well-deserved position in American literature and to reintroduce twenty-first-century readers to a major Montana writer.