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

Work Ethic

Haycox was a severe taskmaster—to himself. He dressed as a businessman and worked nine to five every weekday at his downtown Portland office, turning out at least five pages each morning. Afternoons were spent editing, reading, and handling correspondence. He amassed a large library of Western and Civil War history, which he incorporated into his books, giving them his trademark stamp of realism. He insisted that his popular books were no more than entertainment, although he knew he had it in him to write something he considered substantial. His last two books, The Earthbreakers and The Adventurers, both published posthumously, show that he was on track.

He said there were three stages to becoming a successful writer. "The first is to break into print somewhere with something and get money for it. The second is to consolidate in that field...to such a point that your stories will be good enough to sell whenever written. The third stage is the desire to do something permanent, something at least bordering on the field of literature. The first two stages can be accomplished by sheer muscle and sweat. The third is an entirely different problem."