I was saddened to read of the death of Oakley Hall, a novelist who has done so much to encourage and nurture emerging writers.
Oakley was the author of 20 books, many of which took place in the west. He did a lot to transform the image of the Wild Wild West into something more complex than a war between settlers and Native Americans.
I first met Oakley when I attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, a writers’ conference he started almost 40 years ago. I went to the conference without knowing a lot about it and was amazed at the number of writers who have come from its ranks. There is Michael Chabon, Amy Tan, Jennifer Egan, Joshua Ferris, Glen David Gould and Alice Sebold. Once aspiring writers at Squaw, they have ascended into the highest literary circles in the country.
There are scores of others, including Julia Flynn Siler, Christina Meldrum (whose book Madapple is being released just this week) Meg Waite Clayton, Regina Louise, Anita Ammirezvani, Lindsey Crittenden, Janice Cooke Newman, and so many more. And that is just from the writing workshop. There are other workshops in poetry and screenwriting. (Read about the past participants here.)
I believe Oakley set the tone for
Oakley was 87 when he died, so he lived a productive life. His novel Warlock was a finalist in 1958 for the Pulitzer Prize and the book, The Downhill Racers, was made into a movie staring Robert Redford. Few could have asked for a fuller life. Still, it’s sad when someone who has done so much for literary culture is gone.
Heidi Benson of the San Francisco Chronicle has a nice obituary.