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Walter Van Tilburg Clark (August 3, 1909November 10, 1971) was a writer of short stories, poetry and novels, best known for his first novel, the classic Western The Ox-Bow Incident and the classic short story "The Portable Phonograph".


Born in East Orland, Mainemarker, Clark grew up and went to college in Renomarker, where his father was president of the University of Nevadamarker. In 1933 Clark married Barbara Frances Morse and moved to Cazenovia, New York, where he taught high school English and began his fiction-writing career.

His first book, The Ox-Bow Incident, published in 1940, is a tale about a posse mistaking three innocent travelers for cattle rustlers. When the men are killed, the posse-turned-lynch mob finds that they were wrong. The book examines law and order as well as culpability. It was well-received and gave Clark a level of literary acclaim that was unusual for a writer of Westerns. In 1943 it was adapted into a movie starring Henry Fonda.

Clark's short story, The Portable Phonograph, is considered to be one of the top ten of that genre written by an American. Clark published two more novels, The City of Trembling Leaves and The Track of the Cat, and a collection of his short stories over the next decade, which were also well-received.

Although he continued to write prolifically after 1950, Clark published very little. He took several academic positions, serving for a time in the 1950s as a professor of creative writing at the University of Montanamarker in Missoulamarker where he was noted by his students for his teaching skills and for his eccentric dress which consisted of a blue turtleneck shirt, maroon corduroy jacket, grey slacks and blue socks which never varied throughout the term.

He later returned to Reno to serve as the writer-in-residence at the university from 1962 until his death in Virginia City, Nevada, on November 1971. (He died almost two years to the day after his wife, and both died of cancer.) Clark was one of the first two authors inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame when it was established in 1988 by the Friends of the University of Nevada Libraries.

Books by Clark


Short Story Collections


  • Christmas Comes to Hialsen (1930)
  • "Dawn, Washoe Valley; Big Dusk; Pyramid Lake" (1932)
  • Ten Women in Gale's House: And Shorter Poems (1932)
  • "To a Friend with New Shoes" (1934)

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