Harold Bell Wright was very active and outspoken in his support for efforts
to preserve the various forms of wilderness and wild life. This book is
dedicated to the Save the Redwoods League. The story is set in the redwood
trees of Humbolt County, California. Many Harold Bell Wright fans consider this
his best book.
Wright's ideas of God and religion had never resembled the American Christian
fundamentalism that blossomed during his most productive years. And over time,
his concept of God and faith had evolved further from traditional Christianity.
Most likely his last philosophical essay -- on the spiritual evolution of man --
is found in The Man Who Went Away, coming from the mouth of the forester, on
pages 178 to 194.
On January 14, 1942, in the midst of the Second World War,
Harold Bell Wright wrote to his old friend, Don O. Vernon,
in Lebanon, Missouri. In this letter from Quiet Hills Farm in Escondido,
California, Wright recounts the struggles he and his wife Winnie had gone
through while writing, “The Man Who Went Away.”
Thanks to Eric Tudor for making these relevant paragraphs available:
“I finished my new
book the first of the year. Winnie
is typewriting the final script.
I doubt if I can find much of a market for it, these war
times, but I shall go ahead as if we were normal in business and
of it! I started this
book the summer of 1932--in the Redwood country. The winter of 32 and 33 we were in Barbados where I had
planned to write the thing. But
the bank situation and the uncertainty of everything did not make
for easy thinking along the lines I was trying to develop in this
story so we came home.
we got home things looked worse and worse.
I decided the best move was to buy a little home/farm as an
anchor to windward just in case. I had the money in the bank, and the farm/home seemed the
safest place to spend it.
spent from 1934, Feb. to 1936, mid-summer building, planting,
etc., etc. With farm
established I started again on the book.
Just nicely going when I was forced to undergo a major
operation. That put
an end [to] my writing for nearly a year.
I took up the job again, worked about two months, went back
to the hospital for another operation.
This time I was a full year getting back to my writing.
Then just when I was into the story again I had a bad
upset--heart and chest combination which made work
winter of 1940-41 Winnie and I went to the desert near Palm
Springs where I planned to finish the book and take it East early
this last summer. I
was going fine when the day before Christmas flu/pneumonia took a
hand in my affairs. We
got home from Palm Springs last June.
I have been shut in ever since, much of each day in bed,
spells of two or three days in bed.
But I finished the thing.
are all about us, planting their guns in the hills—our Quiet
Hills. We see them
from the veranda. The
airplanes are overhead. All
the fuss and jitters of the times, black outs, ready to jump in
some direction any minute.
you wonder that I often wish for the Ozarks?
This sounds like a woeful, doleful, sort of script, Don,
but I don’t mean it that way.
It occurred to me you might be interested in the making of
the story. . . . --Hal
Bob Lewis owns a copy of The Man Who Went Away that has this
note, inscribed by Harold Bell Wright to his physician:
I have no words that will adequately express my
indebtedness to you. You kept me alive while I wrote this book. If I
could be sure my work was worthy I would feel better about the whole
thing. Perhaps when you have read it you will wish you were not such a
Harold Bell Wright - Quiet Hills Farm - Aug
This title has the distinction of being one of the
"furious five," Harold Bell Wright's five rarest books, and also one of his
best. I believe it is his fourth rarest book, after To My Sons,
Long Ago Told, and The Devil's Highway. But it is still
rare. If you can find a copy at all, dust jackets are on a fairly
high percentage of them, perhaps because they are newer than the other
titles by Harold Bell Wright. All first editions are published by
Harper & Brothers, who also printed second and third editions, which
they clearly labeled as such. Musson may have produced a
Canadian first edition, but I have not seen one. Reprints were
also produced by Grosset and Dunlap (first printing: 5,000), and in the 1990s Yestermorrow
produced 500 reprints for
Barbara Berry's Bookshop. These Yestermorrow copies show up
frequently on eBay, first editions and Grosset and Dunlap reprints, less
Total sales: No records have been found. Probably about 8,000
to 10,000 were sold.
Review of Book by Dr.
Joyce Kinkead Copyright 1979 by Joyce
Kinkead. Used by Permission
Wright's last western novel, The Man Who Went Away (1942),
published almost twenty years after his others, relies on the theme of
the West as garden. The
setting is a virgin Redwood forest in Northern California.
Instead of the cowboys of earlier westerns, there are gangsters,
government agents, a beautiful blind girl (June Grayson), her
materialistic grandfather, and a young biologist, Will Irvine.
Drug smuggling and a "Save the Redwoods" campaign, not
cattle and ranching, are the subjects of this novel, which is a strange
mixture of mystery and of Wright's spiritual philosophy.
The suspense of the novel begins with the arrival of a mysterious
man, continues as a variety of characters pass through the primitive
forest, and ends with the identification of many of the characters as
FBI agents who capture the drug smugglers.