Background and Description
Harold Bell Wright left Lebanon, Missouri in 1907 to pastor the
Olive Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Redlands,
California, but a
short time later decided he could not be true to himself and continue as
a pastor. According to the Redlands News, Sept. 5, 1964,
"Wright's career as a preacher touched Redlands between February
and October 1907." Wright's health had become so bad that friends feared he would die if he continued to
write and preach. Besides, he was now a best-selling author and realized he
could reach far more people in print than in any pulpit. It was
now that he wrote The Calling of Dan Matthews, The Uncrowned King, The
Winning of Barbara Worth, and Their Yesterdays. But he wasn't
quite through with the town of Redlands yet. In 1914 Harold Bell Wright finished this tale
about how a good young man and a good young woman prevail over the evil
social forces in "Fairlands," a western resort town that is obviously Redlands.
The story follows what is now Highway 38 to Forest
Home and the
Though the inscription below suggests Wright had some
reservations about people finding so much sex, greed, violence and
general evil (by the standards of 1914) between the covers of one of his
books, he obviously had some fun writing it. In Wright's mind the book
may have demonstrated to his critics that he was quite capable of
writing about things that are not all sweetness and light if he wanted
to. But the story provided the venue for his most vicious attack on
authors and critics of his day who made money by pandering to baser passions.
Because of the high level of conflict and drama, this
was the first of his stories to be made into a movie and the only one to
reach number one on the
best seller lists.
Wright penned the following note in a copy of this book now
owned by Robert Lewis. The recipient's name was scratched out, but was evidently a
close friend to whom he gave a copy of each of his book. Otherwise, why would he
present the person with the inscribed book and then say "Don't read this?"
---, Please don't read this book - ever. It is not a bad book,
but there is no need for you to read it, and it is not a nice book for
you. I hated the thing all the time I worked on it but drove myself to
its writing because I felt that it was given me to do.
All American first editions are by
the Book Supply Company and look exactly like the illustrations above.
The first edition was also available in red leather, with photos and
genuine autographs of Harold Bell Wright and E. W. Reynolds. And it was
available in green leather, without the photos and signatures. I do not know
if the green leather edition should be considered a first edition. Hodder and Stoughton published a British first edition. The book
was reprinted many times by A. L. Burt, and by Appleton, Buccaneer (?),
and International News. Most of the
early reprints carry no indication that they are not first editions.
Though this was not Wright's best selling book, it was
the only book he authored that reached the number one spot on the best
seller list. There are plenty of firsts and reprints, but the
first edition dust jackets are scarce. (Sold 750,000 the first month and
Review of Book
by Dr. Joyce Kinkead Copyright
1979 by Joyce Kinkead. Used by
The Eyes of the World (1914) offers a very different
picture from Helen of the Old House.
While the latter novel focuses on the depression conditions of
poverty stricken laborers, the earlier novel explores what Wright views
as the false world of artists, writers, critics, and their wealthy
patrons. Continue >>>
to Eighth Book, When A Man's A Man