Frank Bergon

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Frank Bergon
Frank Bergon in West Tisbury, 2019
Frank Bergon in West Tisbury, 2019

Frank Bergon (born 1943) is an American writer whose novels, essays, anthologies, and literary criticism focus primarily on the American West.[1]


Frank Bergon was born in Ely, Nevada, and grew up on a ranch in Madera County in California’s San Joaquin Valley.[2] After attending elementary school at St. Joachim in Madera, California and high school at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, he received a B.A. in English at Boston College, attended Stanford University as a Wallace Stegner Fellow, and completed a Ph.D. in English and American Literature at Harvard University. [3][4]

Writing career[edit]

Bergon has published twelve books—four novels, a critical study of Stephen Crane, five edited collections and anthologies, and most recently two books of essays. A major concern of his work is with the lives of Basque Americans in the West.[5] His writing about Native Americans ranges from the Shoshone of Nevada[6] to the Maya of Chiapas, Mexico.[7]

His Nevada trilogy consists of three novels spanning a century from the Shoshone massacre of 1911 (Shoshone Mike),[8] to the shooting of Fish and Game officers by the self-styled mountain man Claude Dallas (Wild Game),[9] to the current battle over nuclear waste in the Nevada desert (The Temptations of St. Ed & Brother S).[10]

Bergon’s California trilogy, consisting of, Jesse’s Ghost, Two-Buck Chuck & The Marlboro Man: The New Old West and The Toughest Kid We Knew: The Old New West: A Personal History, all focus on the San Joaquin Valley, and his Basque-Béarnais heritage.[11] The trilogy also draws attention to today's sons and daughters of the California Okies portrayed in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

He also writes about the natural history and environment of the American West in both fiction[12] and non-fiction, such as in The Journals of Lewis and Clark.[13]

With his wife, Holly St. John Bergon, he has published translations of the Spanish poets Antonio Gamaneda, José Ovejero, Xavier Queipo, and Violeta C. Rangel in New European Poets[14] and The European Constitution in Verse.[15]

Bergon has taught at the University of Washington and for many years at Vassar College, where he is Professor Emeritus of English. In 1998, Bergon was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.[16][17]


  • The Toughest Kid We Knew: The Old New West: A Personal History (2020)
  • Two-Buck Chuck & The Marlboro Man: The New Old West (2019)
  • Jesse’s Ghost (2011)
  • Wild Game (1995)
  • The Temptations of St. Ed & Brother S (1993)
  • The Journals of Lewis and Clark, editor (1989)
  • Shoshone Mike (1987)
  • A Sharp Lookout: Selected Nature Essays of John Burroughs, editor (1987)
  • The Wilderness Reader, editor (1980)
  • The Western Writings of Stephen Crane, editor (1979)
  • Looking Far West: The Search for the American West in History, Myth, and Literature, coeditor with Zeese Papanikolas (1978)
  • Stephen Crane’s Artistry (1975)


  1. ^ Ann Ronald, "Nevada," in Updating the American West, ed. Thomas J. Lyons, Fort Worth; TX: Texas Christian University Press, 1997.
  2. ^ Glotfelty, Cheryll (2008). "Frank Bergon," in Literary Nevada: Writings from the Silver State. University of Nevada Press. p. 649-650. ISBN 978-0-87417-755-8.
  3. ^ Morris, Gregory L. (1997). Frank Bergon: Western Writers Series. Boise State University Press. p. 5-8. ISBN 0884301257.
  4. ^ Staff. "Summa Cummlaude for Madera Man". No. 7 June 1965. Center for Bibliographical Studies & Research. Madera Tribune. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  5. ^ Monica Madinabeitia, “Getting to Know Frank Bergon: The Legacy of the Basque Indarra,” Journal of the Society of Basque Studies in America, 28 (2008).
  6. ^ James H. Maguire, "Fiction in the West," in The Columbia History of the American Novel, ed. Emory Elliott, New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.
  7. ^ Frank Bergon, “Come with Me to Reality,” Terra Nova: Nature and Culture, 3 (Winter 1998): 16-34.
  8. ^ “Top Twelve Westerns,” in Good Fiction Guide, ed. Jane Rogers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  9. ^ "Tiny Cards". New Yorker: 82. August 14, 1995.(subscription required)
  10. ^ Cheryl Glotfelty, "Spiritual Testing in the Nuclear West," in Spiritual Frontiers: Belief and Values in the Literary West, Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2000.
  11. ^ Irujo, Xabier and Iñaki Arrieta Baro, eds. (2020). VIsions of a Basque American Westerner: International Perspectives on the Writings of Frank Bergon. pp. 15-169. ISBN 9781949805277
  12. ^ Jim Dwyer, “100 Best Books,” in Where the Wild Books Are: A Field Guide to Ecofiction, Reno: University of Nevada Press, pp. 125, 185.
  13. ^ Frank Bergon, “The Journals of Lewis and Clark: An American Epic,” in Old West-New West: Centennial Essays, ed. Barbara Howard Meldrum, Moscow, ID:University of Idaho Press, 1993.
  14. ^ New European Poets, ed. Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer, Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2008.
  15. ^ The European Constitution in Verse, ed. David Van Reybrouck and Peter Vermeersch, Brussels: Passa Porta, 2009.
  16. ^ "Nevada Writers Hall of Fame: Frank Bergon". University of Nevada, Reno. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  17. ^ "Frank Bergon biography". Author's website. Retrieved 30 November 2017.

External links[edit]