James Warner Bellah

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James Warner Bellah (September 14, 1899 in New York City - September 22, 1976 in Los Angeles, California) was a popular American Western author from the 1930s to the 1950s. His pulp-fiction writings on cavalry and Indians were published in paperbacks or serialized in the Saturday Evening Post.

Bellah was the author of 19 novels, including The Valiant Virginian (the inspiration for the 1961 NBC television series The Americans), and Blood River. Some of his short stories were turned into movies by John Ford, including Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Rio Grande. With Willis Goldbeck he wrote the screenplay for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In 1966 he wrote a "High Noon" TV pilot called "The Clock Strikes Noon Again", about Will Kane Jr., played by Peter Fonda. Bellah was glad to have Katy Jurado reprising her "Helen Ramirez" character from the original High Noon film.

War Years[edit]

In World War I, Bellah enlisted in the Canadian Army, and served as a pilot in the 117th Squadron of Great Britain's Royal Flying Corps. These experiences formed the basis of his 1928 novel Gods of Yesterday. In World War II, Bellah started as a lieutenant in the 16th Infantry, was detailed to the General Staff Corps before Pearl Harbor, and was later assigned to Headquarters First Division, later with the 80th Infantry Division. Later he served on the staff of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten in Southeast Asia. He was attached to General Wingate's Chindits in combat in Burma, and to General Stillwell and to Colonel Cochran's 1st Air Commando Group. He left the service with the rank of Colonel.

In the 1930s he worked as a journalist for the New York Post. He was a member of the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of California beginning in 1952.

His short story "Spanish Man's Grave" is considered by some to be one of the finest American Western stories ever written. His last script was A Thunder of Drums. Bellah's depiction of the Apache is protested by some and lauded as realistic by others.

He died of a heart attack in Los Angeles during a visit to his friend James Francis, Cardinal McIntyre, Archbishop of Los Angeles.

Novels[edit]

  • These Frantic Years, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1927
  • The Sons of Cain, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1928
  • The Gods of Yesterday, New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1928
  • Dancing Lady, New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1932
  • White Piracy, New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1933
  • The Brass Gong Tree, New York: Appleton-Century Co., 1936
  • This is the Town, New York: Appleton-Century Co., 1937
  • 7 Must Die, New York: Appleton-Century Co., 1938
  • The Bones of Napoleon, New York: Appleton-Century Co., 1940
  • Ward Twenty: a Realistic Novel, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1946
  • Rear Guard, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1950 (First published as The White Invader, in The Saturday Evening Post).
  • The Apache, New York: Gold Medal Books, 1951 (First published as The Apache Curse in The Saturday Evening Post).
  • Divorce, New York: Popular Library Books, 1952 (A shorter version first published in April 1939 in Cosmopolitan as You Marry Once!)
  • Ordeal at Blood River, New York: Ballantine Books, 1959 (First published in The Saturday Evening Post).

Novelizations[edit]

  • Sergeant Rutledge, New York, Bantam Books, 1960, based on a screenplay by Bellah and Willis Goldbeck.
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, New York, Pocket Books, 1962 based on a screenply by Bellah and Willis Goldbeck and the original story by Dorothy M. Johnson.
  • Thunder of Drums, New York, Bantam Books, 1961, based on a screenplay by Bellah.

Fort Starke, Civil War and Other Military Stories[edit]

Fort Starke Stories Collected in Reveille published by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1962 and Massacre published by Lion 1950:

  • Command, The Saturday Evening Post Jun 8 1946 (Basis for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon)
  • By the Beard of Saint Crispin, The Saturday Evening Post Aug 3 1946
  • West of the Paradise, The Saturday Evening Post Sep 7 1946
  • Massacre, The Saturday Evening Post Feb 22 1947 (basis for Fort Apache)
  • Spanish Man’s Grave, The Saturday Evening Post May 3, 1947
  • The Devil at Crazy Man, The Saturday Evening Post June 21, 1947
  • Mission with No Record, The Saturday Evening Post Sep 27 1947 (Basis for Rio Grande)
  • Lash of Fear, The Saturday Evening Post Nov 8 1947
  • Big Hunt, The Saturday Evening Post Dec 6 1947 (Basis for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon)
  • The Last Fight, The Saturday Evening Post Oct 16 1948
  • Stage for Elkhorn, The Saturday Evening Post Nov 20 1948

Collected only in Massacre:

  • War Party, The Saturday Evening Post June 19, 1948 (Basis for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon)

Flint Cohill also appears in Ordeal on Blood River, Bellah’s final serial for The Saturday Evening Post published Oct 17, Oct 24, Oct 31, Nov 7, & Nov 14, 1959 and published in paperback by Ballantine in 1959.

Civil War Stories:

  • Tales of the Valorous Virginians—First Blood at Harper’s Ferry, The Saturday Evening Post May 9, 1953
  • Tales of the Valorous Virginians: Stuart’s Charge at Bull Run, The Saturday Evening Post May 16, 1953
  • Tales of the Valorous Virginians: Slaughter at Ball's Bluff, The Saturday Evening Post May 23, 1953
  • Tales of the Valorous Virginians: Jackson Got Licked at Kernstown, The Saturday Evening Post May 30, 1953
  • Tales of the Valorous Virginians— How Stonewall Came Back, The Saturday Evening Post June 6, 1953; Tales of the Valorous Virginians.
  • Tales of the Valorous Virginians: The Secret of the Seven Days, The Saturday Evening Post June 13, 1953

Collected in The Valiant Virginians published by Ballantine in 1953.

Other Military Stories collected in Fighting Man. USA

  • Spanish Man's Grave - The Saturday Evening Post, May 3, 1947
  • Day of Terror - The Saturday Evening Post, Nov 17, 1956
  • While the General Slept - The American Magazine Mar 1939
  • The Heart of Guinevere - The Saturday Evening Post, Dec 14, 1935
  • Fear - The Saturday Evening Post Nov 6 1926—Bellah's debut in that publication.
  • Pirate of Nantucket - The Saturday Evening Post, June 27, 1942
  • Death of an Admiral - Cosmopolitan July 1961
  • Soldier's Boy - The Saturday Evening Post, Nov 23, 1957

Collected in There Will Be War (Jerry Pournelle, ed.) published by Tor in 1986:

  • Spanish Man's Grave - The Saturday Evening Post, May 3, 1947

This was the only non-science fiction story in this anthology about future war.


References[edit]