Thomas Savage (novelist)

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Thomas Savage
Thomas Savage (by Adison Berkey).jpg
Savage, c.1976
BornThomas Savage
(1915-04-25)April 25, 1915
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
DiedJuly 25, 2003(2003-07-25) (aged 88)
Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States
Occupation novelist
Genre Western
Notable worksPower of the Dog (1967), A Strange God (1974), I Heard My Sister Speak My Name (1977), The Corner of Rife and Pacific (1988)
Spouse Elizabeth Savage (writer)
ChildrenRobert Brassil Savage

Russell Yearian Savage, sons

Elizabeth St. Mark Main, daughter

Thomas Savage (April 25, 1915 – July 25, 2003) was an American author of 13 novels published between 1944 and 1988. He is best known for his Western novels, which drew on early experiences in the American West. [1]

An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book or play, and is also considered a writer. More broadly defined, an author is "the person who originated or gave existence to anything" and whose authorship determines responsibility for what was created.

Western (genre) multimedia genre of stories set primarily in the American Old West

Western is a genre of various arts incorporating Western lifestyle which tell stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, often centering on the life of a nomadic cowboy or gunfighter armed with a revolver and a rifle who rides a horse. Cowboys and gunslingers typically wear Stetson hats, neckerchief bandannas, vests, spurs, cowboy boots and buckskins. Recurring characters include the aforementioned cowboys, Native Americans, bandits, lawmen, bounty hunters, outlaws, gamblers, soldiers, and settlers. The ambience is usually punctuated with a Western music score, including American and Mexican folk music such as country, Native American music, New Mexico music, and rancheras.

Western United States Region in the United States

The Western United States is the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. As European settlement in the U.S. expanded westward through the centuries, the meaning of the term the West changed. Before about 1800, the crest of the Appalachian Mountains was seen as the western frontier. The frontier moved westward and eventually the lands west of the Mississippi River were considered the West.



Savage was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1915 to Elizabeth (Yearian) and Benjamin Savage. His parents divorced when he was two years old and, when his mother remarried three years later, he moved with her to a ranch in Beaverhead County, Montana. [2] After graduating from Beaverhead County High School, he studied writing at Montana State College (today the University of Montana), transferring to Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where he courted Montana native Elizabeth Fitzgerald (later to become Elizabeth Savage (writer). They married in 1939 and received B.A. degrees in 1940. [3] [4]

Salt Lake City State capital city in Utah, United States

Salt Lake City is the capital and most populous municipality of the U.S. state of Utah, and county seat of Salt Lake County. With an estimated population of 190,884 in 2014, the city is the core of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, which has a population of 1,153,340. Salt Lake City is further situated within a larger metropolis known as the Salt Lake City–Ogden–Provo Combined Statistical Area, a corridor of contiguous urban and suburban development stretched along a 120-mile (190 km) segment of the Wasatch Front, comprising a population of 2,423,912. It is one of only two major urban areas in the Great Basin.

Utah A state of the United States of America

Utah is a state in the western United States. It became the 45th state admitted to the U.S. on January 4, 1896. Utah is the 13th-largest by area, 30th-most-populous, and 11th-least-densely populated of the 50 United States. Utah has a population of more than 3 million according to the Census estimate for July 1, 2016. Urban development is mostly concentrated in two areas: the Wasatch Front in the north-central part of the state, which contains approximately 2.5 million people; and Washington County in Southern Utah, with over 160,000 residents. Utah is bordered by Colorado to the east, Wyoming to the northeast, Idaho to the north, Arizona to the south, and Nevada to the west. It also touches a corner of New Mexico in the southeast.

Beaverhead County, Montana County in the United States

Beaverhead County is the largest county by area in the U.S. state of Montana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 9,246. Its county seat is Dillon. The county was founded in 1865.

By the time he was twenty-nine, Savage had worked as a wrangler, ranch hand, welder, and railroad brakeman. [5] Following the publication of his first novel (The Pass) and the birth of his first two children, Robert and Russell, Savage secured a teaching position at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, where he taught from 1947–1948. His daughter Elizabeth was born in 1949, the same year he left Suffolk for an assistant professorship at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. By 1955, Savage was able to stop teaching and focus on his writing full-time. [6]

Suffolk University private university located in Boston, Massachusetts

Suffolk University is a private, non-sectarian, non-profit research university located in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. With 7,560 students, it is the eighth largest university in metropolitan Boston. It is categorized as a Doctoral Research University by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. It was founded as a law school in 1906 and named after its location in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. The university's notable alumni include mayors, dozens of U.S. federal and state judges and United States members of Congress.

Boston State capital of Massachusetts, U.S.

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 694,583 in 2018, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth most populous in the United States.

Brandeis University private research university in Waltham, Massachusetts

Brandeis University is an American private research university in Waltham, Massachusetts, 9 miles (14 km) west of Boston. Founded in 1948 as a non-sectarian, coeducational institution sponsored by the Jewish community, Brandeis was established on the site of the former Middlesex University. The university is named after Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish Justice of the U.S Supreme Court.

In 1955, Savage and his wife, the novelist Elizabeth Savage, purchased a home in Georgetown, Maine, where they would remain for nearly thirty years. She wrote many novels, including The Last Night at the Ritz. In 1982, the Savages built a home on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, on property given to him by a sister he met only in adulthood. [2] He published the last of his 13 novels in 1988. Set in Montana, "The Corner of Rife and Pacific" follows the founders of a tiny Montana town over several generations.

Georgetown, Maine Town in Maine, United States

Georgetown is a town in Sagadahoc County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,042 at the 2010 census. Home to Reid State Park, the town is part of the Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area. Located on an island accessible by car from the mainland, Georgetown includes the villages of Five Islands, Georgetown, Bay Point, Kennebec Point, Indian Point, Marrtown, West Georgetown and Robinhood. It is a popular tourist destination.

Whidbey Island island in the United States of America

Whidbey Island is the largest of the islands composing Island County, Washington, in the United States. Whidbey is about 30 miles (48 km) north of Seattle, and lies between the Olympic Peninsula and the I-5 corridor of western Washington. The island forms the northern boundary of Puget Sound. It is home to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Puget Sound sound along the northwestern coast of the U.S. state of Washington

Puget Sound is a sound along the northwestern coast of the U.S. state of Washington, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, and part of the Salish Sea. It is a complex estuarine system of interconnected marine waterways and basins, with one major and two minor connections to the open Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Juan de Fuca—Admiralty Inlet being the major connection and Deception Pass and Swinomish Channel being the minor.

After the death of his wife in 1989, Savage lived briefly in Seattle and San Francisco, before moving to Virginia Beach, Virginia, in order to be near his daughter. His son, the writer Robert Brassil Savage, died in 2001 in a "freak accident". [7]

San Francisco Consolidated city-county in California, US

San Francisco, officially City and County of San Francisco and colloquially known by its initialism SF, is a city in—and the cultural, commercial, and financial center of—Northern California. San Francisco is the 13th most populous city in the United States, and the fourth most populous in California, with 883,305 residents as of 2018. It covers an area of about 46.89 square miles (121.4 km2), mostly at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, making it the second most densely populated large U.S. city, and the fifth most densely populated U.S. county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs. San Francisco is the 12th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States, with 4,729,484 people in 2018. With San Jose, it forms the fifth most populous combined statistical area in the United States, the San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

Thomas died in Virginia, July 25, 2003, at the age of eighty-eight.

Writing career

Savage published his first story, "The Bronc Stomper", in 1937 in Coronet under the name Tom Brenner. Annie Proulx has noted that the story was "unremarkable except for its unusual subject matter", breaking a horse. [2]

<i>Coronet</i> (magazine) former American general interest digest magazine

Coronet was a general interest digest magazine published from October 23, 1936, to at least March 1971 and ran for 299 issues. Coronet magazine continued publication under some form and ownership through at least September 1976, an issue with actress Angie Dickinson on the cover. The magazine was owned by Esquire and published by David A. Smart from 1936 to 1961.

His last novel, The Corner of Rife and Pacific, was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award [8] and received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award in 1989.

When asked to speak of his influences, Savage stated " Mrs. Bridge , by Evan S. Connell, is one of the best novels I ever read. I was influenced by John Steinbeck, Robert Benchley, and Dorothy Parker. I was a history major, read little fiction, chiefly biography and history. I read S.J. Perelman." [9]




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  1. Colby University Magazine
  2. 1 2 3 Annie Proulx (2001). "Afterword" in Thomas Savage, The Power of the Dog. Warner Trade.
  3. "Obituaries". Colby Magazine. Colby College. Winter 2004. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  4. "Thomas Savage, 88; Writer Best-Known for Western Novels Set in Montana". Los Angeles Times. 2003-08-30. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  5. "Thomas Savage, 88, Novelist Drawn to the American West". The New York Times. 2003-08-25. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  6. "Thomas Savage Biography-Thomas Savage Comments". Brief Biographies. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  7. "Obituaries". Colby Magazine. Colby College. Fall 2003. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  8. "5 Nominated for PEN Fiction Awards". ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007). 1989-03-03.
  9. "Thomas Savage". Gale Biography in Context. 2001.Missing or empty |url= (help)