Close up of Nevada Writers Hall of Fame medal

Walter Van Tilburg Clark

1988 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Inductee


Walter Van Tilburg Clark was born in East Orland, Maine, but grew up and went to college in Reno, where his father was President of the University of Nevada from 1918-1938. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Nevada in 1931 and 1932. Clark tried his hand at poetry before turning to prose. He was recognized for the quality of his short stories in Yale Review in the 1930s. He was farming and teaching school in Cazenovia, New York, when his first novel was published. With The Ox-Bow Incident (1940), he became a national literary figure at thirty. 20th Century Fox released a feature film of The Ox-Bow Incident in 1943, starring Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews. A condensed Armed Services Edition of The City of Trembling Leaves was produced during World War II, when over 123 million books were sent to U. S. troops. The Track of the Cat was first added to the Gold Star Book List by the Syracuse Public Library in 1949.

Clark taught at UNR and Virginia City High School and again at the University of Nevada, Reno, when he became writer-in-residence in 1962. He served as a trustee for the Virginia City Foundation Trust, which sought to preserve historic buildings linked to the Comstock Lode. In his later years, he wrote furiously but published little. Robert Laxalt arranged for Clark to come to Reno to edit the journals of nineteenth century Comstock editor and writer Alfred Doten, which were published posthumously in 1973. In 1998, Texas Christian University included Clark in their Literary Chronology of the American West (1510-1984).