Under Western Skies: Ernest Haycox and the West in Fiction and Film


Ernest Haycox (1899-1950) was one of the most prolific writers of "western" fiction. In a career spanning almost three decades, he published 24 novels and over 250 short stories, a number of them considered classics. His story, "Stage to Lordsburg," was made into the movie Stagecoach, which made John Wayne a star.

From the 1920s to 1940s, Haycox was a regular contributor to first the "pulp" magazines and then the "slicks" such as Collier's and Saturday Evening Post. A number of his novels were published as magazine serials and then in book form.

Haycox's westerns often went beyond the formula fiction of silent cowboys with smoking guns and swooning women. His male heroes wrestled with human problems, women were presented as individuals, and historical material was true to the record. This was a new kind of western, and it set the tone for all who followed.

"Haycox," said writer D.B. Newton, "very nearly succeeded, single-handed, in doing for the standard Western what Hammett and Chandler did for the private eye detective story—made it respectable."