How well do you know Nevada’s literary legacy?

BIO-C-123 Walter Van Tilburg Clark.

BIO-C-123 Walter Van Tilburg Clark.

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This week I’ll continue with more Nevada trivia — this time related to the state’s rich literary traditions. As you stand 6 feet apart from your closest neighbor, show off your mastery of the Silver State’s most beloved writers.

  1. What western writer penned his most famous book about a horse while living in a cabin in Washoe Valley?
  2. What pen name did writer Samuel Clemens use when he started his journalistic career penning reports about life in the mining camp of Aurora, Calif. in 1862?
  3. What well-known horror writer set one of his most macabre novels in a remote mining town named Desperation, Nev.?
  4. What is the name of acclaimed Nevada writer Robert Laxalt’s first book?
  5. What is the title of award-winning author/songwriter Willy Vlautin’s first book, which is largely set in Reno?
  6. What well-regarded Nevada novelist, who is considered by many to be one of the state’s most distinguished literary figures, actually penned only four books?
  7. What contemporary Nevada writer wrote a series of bestselling novels for teens written entirely in verse?
  8. Who was the first Native American woman to ever publish her autobiography
  9. While Mark Twain is the best-known writer to have ever come out of the vibrant Virginia City journalism scene of the mid- to late 19th century, who, in Twain’s time, was actually thought by many to be an even better writer?
  10. What Nevada writer, raised on a cattle ranch in Humboldt County, is considered “the first woman of Nevada letters” for her books about the Great Basin environment and its people?


  1. The writer was Will James (real name: Ernest Default) and the book was his classic, “Smoky the Cowhorse,” published in 1926. The book won the 1927 Newbery Medal and has been made into several films.
  2. Clemens, who is better known by his most famous pen name, Mark Twain, used a different pseudonym when he began writing short accounts about life in the mining camp of Aurora for Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise newspaper. For those stories, Clemens wrote using the name Josh.
  3. Stephen King wrote this 1996 novel about a malevolent force that possesses people in the Nevada town of Desperation, located on U.S. 50. King later said he was inspired to write the book after visiting Ruth, Nev., during a cross-country motorcycle trip.
  4. While Robert Laxalt’s most famous work is “Sweet Promised Land,” an account of his father’s immigrant experience, his first book was “The Violent Land: Tales the Old Timers Tell,” which was published in 1953. The book is a collection of short stories about frontier Nevada.
  5. Vlautin’s book, released in 2006, is “The Motel Life.” It is the story of two brothers from Reno who live in motels and find their lives even further disrupted following a tragic accident. The book was made into a movie in 2013.
  6. The writer is Walter Van Tilburg Clark, author of “The Ox-Bow Incident,” “The Track of the Cat,” “The City of Trembling Leaves” and “The Watchful God and Other Stories.” All four of his works were published between 1940 and 1950. Clark spent the remainder of his life (he died in 1971) teaching, lecturing and editing “The Journals of Alf Doten,” a collection of the daily writings of a 19th century newspaper editor.
  7. Ellen Hopkins has written a number of verse novels for teens including the bestselling “Crank” and “Burned.” Hopkins has written 14 young adult novels as well as a handful of adult novels. She lives in Carson City.
  8. Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, a member of the Northern Paiute tribe, wrote “Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims” in 1884. The book is a memoir, a history of her people, and a condemnation of their treatment by the federal government. It is considered the first known autobiographical work written by a Native American woman.
  9. Journalist Dan DeQuille (real name William Wright) was considered by many in Virginia City to be a superior writer to the young Mark Twain. DeQuille, who remained a close friend of Twain’s throughout his life, wrote for the Territorial Enterprise for more than 30 years. Despite being widely published, DeQuille never achieved the recognition or fame of his contemporary.
  10. Idah Meacham Strobridge, born in 1855, grew up on homestead ranches in Lassen Meadows, between Winnemucca and Lovelock. She wrote three books of folktales, essays and observations that focused on the Great Basin region, including, “Miners’ Mirage-Land” in 1904, “The Loom of the Desert” in 1907 and “The Land of Purple Shadows” in 1909.

Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.


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