Penn State

Mark S. Dyreson - professor of kinesiology, affiliate professor of history, Penn State University Park

Book Title: The Brave Cowboy

Author: Edward Abbey

Book Description:

The Brave Cowboy (1956) was the second novel published by the great chronicler of the American West, Edward Abbey. Later obscured by his more famous works such as Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang, Abbey considered this book his masterwork. Kirk Douglas played the lead role in the 1962 Hollywood adaptation of the novel entitled Lonely are the Brave, a cinematic tour de force the actor considered his finest piece of work.

The novel and the movie were favorites of my father. My dad was an iconoclast who rivaled Abbey's protagonist. Growing up in Albuquerque, where the novel is set, the book also became one of my favorites as a young reader. Decades later, Abbey spent the final years of his life in Tucson, Arizona, where I went to graduate school at the University of Arizona. I had the chance to meet him and talk with him about the American West and all sorts of other subjects on several occasions, and he revealed himself as a fascinating contrarian and non-conformist, like my father. Abbey died in Tucson in 1989, the year I finished my doctorate, but I continue to read and enjoy his unique viewpoints. As a native of the American West relocated to the East where Abbey grew up, The Brave Cowboy continues in my subsequent readings to evoke the images, sentiments, and memories of my homeland.


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