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R O B E R T   L A X A L T   Freelancer

Photo of Radio Interview with R. Laxalt on gambling article in the Saturday Evening Post

Like many of the ultimately successful writers who preceded and followed him, Robert Laxalt struggled to break into print as a freelance writer. While holding down a day job as a journalist he submitted a number of short stories and articles to national magazines, building a growing file of rejection letters, now part of the Robert Laxalt collection in Special Collections at the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries. In retrospect, we can enjoy some of the comments from editors who rejected Laxalt's work and ideas, such as this one about his suggestion for an article on Nevada's Brother David (the former actor, Gareth Hughes):

"... And thank you for suggesting the actor who turned priest and is now missionary to the Indians. This one doesn't quite work out for us since we're pretty much overstocked with material on actors, religion, and Indians."

-- the editor of the Interesting People Section of American Magazine, 1954.

Sample rejection slip for an early  Robert Laxalt story


The subject of Basques did not interest The Saturday Evening Post in 1953:

"...As for your doing a single piece on the Basques, the staff seemed too doubtful about this for me to encourage you on it, unfortunately..."

-- Peggy Dowst Redman, Associate Editor


The Blue Book Magazine, published by the McCall Corporation, found a divorced heroine problematic for their readers in 1951:

"...This is a vast country, and in spite of radio and movies I find a great variance in social standards. The more sophisticated audience would accept your divorcee heroine; many others would not ..."

-- Donald Kennicott, Editor


The "Nevada Perspective" was also articulated by an editor from the Hearst Corporation in 1953:

"... To you, sitting in Nevada, the story seems bigger than it does to us, sitting in New York." (letter shown left)

-- Charles H.D. Robbins Jr.

The idea of snakes in fiction also did not appeal to The Saturday Evening Post in 1952:

"There is some very good writing in THE SNAKE PEN, but I can tell you right now that it won't do for the Post because snakes are practically automatically out. It is the opinion of the staff, rightly or wrongly, that most of our audience is too repelled by snakes to want to read about them in fiction. ... Maybe you could substitute some other sort of menace ..."

-- Peggy Dowst Redman, Associate Editor


After his recognition for the publication of his first novel, Sweet Promised Land, Laxalt found it much easier to publish his freelance work. At first he found success as the spokesman for Nevada and the Basques, but he later became known as a spokesman for the Western United States, and he eventually became a regular writer for the National Geographic.

Pay stub for a Robert Laxalt story published in The Blue Book magazine

Selected Published Short Stories

"The Herd Stalker." Blue Book Magazine (1951?)

"A Blanket for Jenny." Blue Book Magazine

"Wounded Lion." Blue Book Magazine (June, 1955), pp. 32-38.

"The Basque Troubador." Atlantic Monthly (Oct. 1963): pp. 136, 138-139.

"From a Balcony in Paris." Short Story International (1965)

For a lengthy bibliography, see Robert Laxalt's Nevada Writers Hall of Fame entry.

Selected Published Articles

"The Dancer and the Debonair Desperado." The American Weekly (Aug. 13, 1950), pp. 18-19.

"Gambling Agent." The American Weekly (1952)

"The House That Gambling Built." Saturday Evening Post

"Basque Sheepherders: Lonely Sentinels of the American West." National Geographic. (June 1966) Vol. 129, no. 6, pp. 870-888.

"Land of the Ancient Basques." National Geographic. (August 1968) Vol. 134, no. 2, pp. 240-277

"The California Trail: To the Rainbow's End." in Trails West. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1979.

"Last of a Breed — The Gauchos." National Geographic (Oct., 1980) Vol. 158, no. 4, p. 478.

"Death Valley: Nature at the Limits." National Geographic Traveler. (Autumn 1986) Vol. III, no. 3, pp. 54-63.

University LibrariesUniversity of Nevada, Reno • Contact Donnelyn Curtis • Updated 3 September, 2014