Million word man: Utah writer Frank C. Robertson

Frank C. Robertson, Utah writer, c. 1941

Frank C. Robertson, of Springville, prolific western writer who is now hard at work on a new book, says he’ll be glad when the European war is over and the Britishers get back to their reading again.

This Utah writer has had about 65 novels appear in book form in Great Britain, of which about 20 have been published in America, and about an equal number trans­lated into various foreign lan­guages, and three transcribed into braille.

Many Million Words

Says Frank: “At a rough and inaccurate estimate, I suppose I have had about eight million words published and I refuse to say how many million words I have un­published. I think I have a couple of million more words bottled up in my system, but they’re slow coming out these days, and have a distress­ing habit of not marching into line the way they should.

“My pet novel is the one on Mormonism called The Rocky Road to Jericho (Frank Chester Field), which was what one might call a ‘literary success and a financial failure.’ My most successful novel was my first one, The Foreman of the Forty Bar, which appeared in the People’s Popular Monthly, a small slick paper magazine now de­funct, under the title Owyhee. This book has gone through several American editions, and over 20 in England, the latest one coming out there only last summer. It was syndicated to over 50 newspapers, transcribed into braille, and sold to a motion picture company, which went broke before the picture was ever made.

“My most ambitious western novel is called Dead Man’s Grove. It was published In England, but every American publisher spurned it with the comment that ‘the reading public does not want real­ism in Its western stories.’

“Other quite successful novels of mine are The Man Branders, The Silver Cow, and The Boss of the Tumbling H.

“My latest western, called Poison Valley, will be serialized in Ranch Romances magazine, beginning in April, 1941, and will be brought out in book form by E. P. Dutton & Co., in May.

In Ranch Romances

“I have contributed between 150,000 and 250,000 words to one maga­zine, Ranch Romances, New York, each year since the magazine was founded over 15 years ago, which should nearly be a record of some kind or other.

“My greatest achievement I sup­pose, was being listed in ‘Who’s Who in America’ within two years after I started writing full time, and less than five years from the time when I was proving up on a rather worthless ‘dry farm’ in a one-room cabin with no hope of ever having a story accepted.

“My most unearned honor, save possibly the one I’ve just men­tioned, was when Town and Coun­try magazine of London printed my picture and a thousand-word sketch on a page opposite one de­voted to Ogden Mills, then secre­tary of the United States treasury. Famous Americans, haw!

“It’s been told so many times (on book jackets and in newspa­per sketches) that I am an eighth grade graduate of a district school, and that I never, attended school after I was thirteen, that I am getting a little sensitive about it; yet it is the sordid truth and I seem unable to live it down.” (Why should you, Frank, when you’ve done such a grand job of educating yourself? Schooling and education are, or can be, vastly different, you know.)

Never Writes Poetry

“I have never written poetry, not so much as a line of doggerel. Unique, eh?” (I’ll say so. And you don’t know the fun you’ve missed.)

“That about covers the case, I think. O, yes, you asked about pres­ent conditions in England. I think I’ll just enclose a couple of recent letters from there which will show the spirit over there better than I could condense it. In explanation I will say that I have two publish­ers over there, one using my right name, and the other using the name, Robert Crane. For them to go ahead buying and selling Ameri­can western stories while going through what they are, seems perfectly amazing. What a people!

“Concerning the sickness, I was out day before yesterday for the first time since Thanksgiving. Don’t look sick, don’t feel sick, yet the slightest exertion brings back the pain; and the doctor tells me it will take several months to re­cover; and in the meantime, no exertion, no excitement, no getting out at night. Sounds pretty unin­teresting, but it Is a relief to be able to hobble around the house, even with a cane.”


Curtis Brown, Ltd.,
London-New York.

To Frank C. Robertson, Esq.,
R. F. D. 1, Springville, Utah,
U. S. A.


As you know, Newnes have some Robert Crane titles still to publish, and their idea now is to bring them out in paper covers under the Pear­son imprint. As you probably know, Newnes and Pearson are now one. There is a wartime demand for these paper-covered westerns, and it seems quite a good idea.

Newnes says that to publish in this way it will be necessary for some slight cuts to be made; also they would like to change certain titles to avoid confusion with books already on the market. I think you will probably have no objection to either of these things in this case, but should be glad to have your cabled assent. I should understand a cable with the one word, “Okay.”

Yours sincerely,

Article by By Eva Willes Wangsgaard in The Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1941.


  1. I discovered Frank C. Robertson in the 1920’s Adventures many years ago and enjoyed all his work. His many serials and novelets in the Doubleday Wests and Short Stories are also worth reading.

  2. Walker,
    I’ve seen another place, maybe on the Rough Edges Blog where you said you really admired Frank C. Robertson’s work, you had said you don’t hear many talking about him anymore. Are there a few titles that stand out to you? Also, could you please mention who your favorite ten western authors are (or any number you feel like)? I’ve learned a lot from your recommendations the last couple of years from your comments on Sai’s old and new blog, Rough Edges Blog and Your recommendations have introduced me to some great storytelling. Thank you.

  3. DKS, I recommend that you attend Pulpfest ( in Pittsburg, Pa. during August 1-4. You will find many western pulps and western paperbacks at inexpensive prices. I’ve been attending pulpcons since 1972 and I have a houseful of books to prove it!

    I can give you some pointers but you already know about the excellent blogs like Pulp Flakes, Rough Edges, and Mystery File. First of all there is a great reference book that every lover of western fiction should have in their library: TWENTIETH CENTURY WESTERN WRITERS edited by James Vinson. Published by Gale in 1982. It is an encyclopedia of the best known western writers. There is another by Jon Tuska titled ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WESTERN WRITERS. Also a more recent book: 52 WEEKS–52 WESTERN NOVELS by Scott Harris and Paul Bishop.

    My favorite western writer is Luke Short. My favorite novel is LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry. The TV mini series starring Robert Duvall is excellent. Below Luke Short I would list Elmer Kelton, Ernest Haycox, Walt Coburn, Merle Constiner, W.C. Tuttle, and the western novels of Elmore Leonard. Many old time collectors like Max Brand but I think he wrote too much, too fast. A third of his fiction is good, a third mediocre, and a third poor.

    My favorite Frank Robertson novels are his 1920’s early work which appeared in Adventure and Short Stories(see the Fiction Mags Index for a listing). By the way you can’t go wrong collecting the original paperback novels that were published in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. You can find them at Pulpfest at a buck apiece or two for 5 dollars. Also has a lot of western fiction but you usually have to pay postage on top of the price.

    The best western pulps were Western Story, West during the late twenties and early thirties, Dime Western and Star Western, and the general fiction pulps like Short Stories, Adventure, Argosy, Bluebook, Popular Magazine.

    Hope the above can lead you to many more hours of enjoyable reading!

    1. Thank you, Walker. That was really great. I love talking about pulps. Based on your’s, Sai’s, James Reasoner’s, and a few others’ recommendations I’ve found on the web, I’ve had a chance to read at least one story by each of the following authors (not just western, I also love adventure, historical fiction and am dabbling in sci-fi) since I discovered pulps about three and a half years ago, I’m trying to read pretty broadly so I don’t miss someone great:
      Lamb, Harold
      Burroughs, Edgar Rice
      Haggard, H. Rider
      Bester, Alfred
      Sabatini, Rafael
      White, Samuel Alexander
      Pendexter, Hugh
      Mundy, Talbot
      Bedford-Jones, H.
      MacCreagh, Gordon
      Howard, Robert E.
      Smith, Arthur D Howden
      Friel, Arthur
      Young, Gordon
      Holt, George E.
      Short, Luke
      Bishop, Farnham and Brodeur, Arthur Gilchrist
      Makin, William J.
      Chidsey, Donald Barr
      Gardner, Erle Stanley
      Abdullah, Achmed
      Simpson, Robert
      Adams, Bill
      Price, E. Hoffmann
      Dwyer, James Francis
      Greene, L. Patrick
      Hendryx, James B.
      Flynn, T. T.
      Holmes, L.P.
      Angellotti, Marion Polk
      Beadle, Charles
      Moore, Captain Frederick
      Wetjen, Albert Richard
      Worts, George F.
      Germano, Peter B
      Maugham, W. Somerset
      Moore, Captain Frederick
      Dunn, J. Allan
      Brackett, Leigh
      Heinlein, Robert
      Scobee, Barry
      Dingle, A.E.
      Chalmers, Stephen
      Dawson, Peter
      Grimshaw, Beatrice
      Mill, Robert R.
      Surdez, Georges
      Constiner, Merle
      Webb, John
      Haycox, Ernest
      Kelton, Elmer
      Shirreffs, Gordon D.
      Leonard, Elmore
      Weinbaum, Stanley
      Gruber, Frank
      Olmsted, Harry F.
      Johnson, Dorothy
      Cutcliffe Hyne, C. J.
      Carse, Robert
      DeRosso, H. A.
      Mason, F. V. W.
      Nebel, Frederick
      Johnson, W. Ryerson
      Williamson, Jack
      Roscoe, Theodore
      Small, Sidney Herschel
      Coburn, Walt
      Sale, Richard
      McGrew, Don
      Hamilton, Edmond

  4. This is an excellent list of authors and with the exception of a couple names, they are among my favorites also. I bet Sai would agree.

    1. It’s an excellent list to sample the various joys of the pulps. I’m hoping that soon you’ll be recommending your discoveries here 🙂

  5. Walker and Sai,

    Out of all the pulp authors you guys have introduced me to on Sai’s old blogspot website, my favorite has been Hugh Pendexter. I I love learning American History that way. I,’ll read until a location or event he talks about makes me curious, then I’ll do some internet searches to learn more, see the area in Google maps, then go back to the story. I’m lucky he was so prolific. His stories make you feel like you are actually there. Sai, those profiles you wrote on the authors are just great.

  6. Pendexter is a big favorite with me also. I once counted his serials and complete novels in Adventure and there were 40 of them spread through out the twenties and thirties. I also like the short stories he did for Adventure dealing with indians.

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