Fradkin is the perfect fit to study Stegner’s career in the West, as he himself is also a polished writer, historian and environmentalist.
Stegner was that, as well as a novelist and a gifted teacher who made his Creative Writing program at Stanford University the finest in the country. There he mentored writers like Ed Abbey, Wendell Berry and Larry McMurty. Although Stegner preferred to be known as a novelist, the so-called Dean of Western Literature is probably best remembered as a leader in conservation battles. Fradkin is a fan of Stegner and his works, but he gives us an objective rundown on the writer, not skipping his character flaws. These were the result of self-doubts, thanks to an abusive father. (His old man was a “busted” farmer-turned-bootlegger.) This is a fine job of assessing the career of a hick from the Saskatchewan prairies who made good at Harvard and Stanford.