Thomas Savage (1915-2003) was an extraordinary chronicler of the American West, and Lona Hanson was one of his best-selling novels. Originally published by Simon and Schuster in 1948, one year after A. B. Guthrie’s The Big Sky, Lona Hanson establishes many of the themes of Savage’s later masterworks, The Power of the Dog and The Sheep Queen.
In ranch woman Lona Hanson, Thomas Savage creates an extraordinary character, passionate, driven, domineering, and ultimately tragic. As the dustjacket of the original edition notes, “Lona Hanson is a shocking and affecting story of a girl who wore pride as an armor, and sacrificed everything to it.” Set during the Great Depression, Lona Hanson vividly depicts the struggle for survival of a ranching dynasty on the Montana-Idaho border.
O. Alan Weltzien writes in his introduction, “[Thomas] Savage’s resistance to, even revulsion from, hack Western plots in film or print stamped his own independence as he set about writing the Rocky Mountain West he knew first hand, from the inside.”
Of the recent reissue of The Pass, reviewer Jenny Shank of New West wrote, “I’d never heard of Thomas Savage until I came across Riverbend Publishing and the Drumlummon Institute’s recent reprint of 1944’s The Pass, and after falling into this beautiful, multi-layered, funny, heart-wrenching novel of the Montana prairie, I’m kicking myself for not reading his books sooner.”
Novelist Thomas McGuane has written, “It is incomprehensible that [Thomas] Savage is so neglected. . . . The canon builders of the West have made regional flattery with its big skies, men to match the mountains, and geographies of hope such an obligation that a subtle practitioner like Savage goes unnoticed. In my view, Savage may be the best of all the western novelists, after [Willa] Cather.”
“Savage’s voice is a wonder. . . . He deserves to be discovered by more readers.” — New York Times Book Review