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Who Was Harold Bell Wright? 

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Harold Bell Wright writes while horse watches over his shoulder


←  Click links in left sidebar for TONS more information about Harold Bell Wright

     In 1928 Harold Bell Wright released Long Ago Told, a collection of Papago Indian stories which he had collected and edited. I believe Long Ago Told is a timeless treasure which deserves wider attention even today, but it was not a novel at all, much less the kind of novel that made Wright popular. That was followed in 1930 by Exit, a confusing and convoluted tale of the West that Wright adapted from a play he had written for his second son, Paul. Both the story line and the moral issues are hard to find. And Wright followed that in 1932 with The Devil’s Highway, a book of otherworldly science fiction. Though the setting was supposedly in the West, the story was not. That same year Wright seemed to make a conscious effort to get back to the kind of story that had made him popular before. But Ma Cinderella lacked the lightness, sweetness, and charm of his best selling books. Ma Cinderella, the lead character, was much less likable than Aunt Mollie, in The Shepherd of the Hills, or Auntie Sue, in The Recreation of Brian Kent, or for that matter, any of the heroes of the earlier books. There was no all-good character his readers could identify with.

     In 1934 Wright followed ten years of comparatively unsuccessful books with an autobiography, To My Sons, his poorest selling book, though valuable and fascinating today.

     I believe Wright would never have been popular in the first and second decades of the 20th century if he had written books like the ones he wrote in the third and fourth decades. This slump may have been inevitable for a man who wrote from a moral passion. By the early 1920s Wright seems to have said all he had to say--up to that time in his life--and had said it as many ways as he could think of. If the country lost some of its innocent idealism in the First World War, the "roaring twenties" and the great depression, so had Wright become older and more complex. But wiser commentators than I are probably correct; if he had written books in the latter half of his career like those he wrote earlier, they probably would not have sold well anyway.

     Finally in 1942, just two years before his death, Harold Bell Wright finished The Man Who Went Away, a book with much of the charm, clear story line, and passionate spiritual values of his early books, though the spiritual values were now far more mature, broad, and philosophical. Many fans today consider it his best book. But by 1942 times truly had changed and Wright’s loyal fans who might have bought anything he wrote 25 years earlier had now moved on to other things.

Harold Bell Wright real photo post card (21750 bytes)
Click to Enlarge

     In recent years Harold Bell Wright’s books have become highly collectible items for a variety of reasons. First, many serious collectors and students of Wright today are very committed and active Christians, including many ministers. In Wright they find characters struggling to make faith meaningful in a society that seems to be turning away from moral and ethical values. At the dawn of the 21st Century many people still find in Wright's stories inspiration for successful living. In some ways the late 20th and early 21st centuries' emphasis on spirituality rather than traditional religion is closer to Wright's thinking than was the religion of his contemporaries.

      Another group of collectors value Harold Bell Wright because he and his stories are an important part of their regional history. This is especially the case in and around Branson, Missouri; Imperial Valley, California; and Tucson, Arizona. But regional interest in Wright extends to all of the Ozarks, Arizona and Southern California.

     Quentin Burke, president of the Harold Bell Wright Society, suggests a third group of collectors and students, "whose principle interest and concern is the lack of acceptance among academia for the author. Here and there academia relents, and agrees that being popular does not mean an author should be ignored." The Harold Bell Wright Gazette frequently reports successful and unsuccessful efforts to gain recognition for Wright's contributions.

     A fourth group collects Harold Bell Wright's books and related items simply because they are collectible and sometimes profitable. Until recently, many book dealers ignored Wright and failed to learn which titles were valuable. Many collectors through the 1980’s and early 1990’s are eager to swap stories of walking into used bookstores and buying $400 or even $1500 Wright titles for less than $10. Few things produce more obsession than a good treasure hunt. 

    And the real fanatics, people who write books and create web sites about Wright and who lurk around the Harold Bell Wright items on eBay, often fit into all four categories.


      You will notice that this web site is as much for collectors as for students of literature. That is because the site is designed to support and update a little bibliography or collector's guide I wrote, Harold Bell Wright’s Books and Collectibles. I first produced it in 1992 as a simple list. In 1997 Barbara Berry’s Bookshop published the second edition, greatly expanded and with many photos. I received all my royalties up front, so I have created this web site just for the fun of it, not to sell my book. Still, this site follows the format of the book fairly closely. I have not given here all the detail in the book, but have added photos and updates not found there. Please feel free to correspond with me.  

Harold Bell Wright studio photo (18252 bytes)

Click to Enlarge

    Oh yes, if you would like to buy a copy of my book, go to the links page and click on the first link.

←  Click links in left sidebar for TONS more information about Harold Bell Wright

Gerry Chudleigh
Newbury Park, CA

Last updated 05/26/11

 For a comprehensive and scholarly introduction to Harold Bell Wright--his life and work--by Dr. Joyce Kinkead, Click Here

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←  Click links in left sidebar for TONS more information about Harold Bell Wright

Your Questions and Suggestions are Welcome. Click here for Email Address.

    This Harold Bell Wright web site contains information from the book, "Harold Bell Wright's Books and Collectibles," plus additions and corrections.  Learn about Postcards related to Harold Bell Wright, Old Matt's Cabin, The Shepherd of the Hills, Branson, Missouri, Uncle Ike, El Centro, California, Harold Bell Wright as Author, Lebanon, Missouri, The Calling of Dan Matthews, Hiram College, The Winning of Barbara Worth, and more.  

This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh.

Copyright © 2000-May, 2011 by Gerry Chudleigh
Last updated 05/26/11