Frank Bergon

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Frank Bergon
Frank Bergon in Blanco Basin, 2010
Frank Bergon in Blanco Basin, 2010

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. After attending elementary school at St. Joachim in Madera, California and high school at Bellarmine 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.

Writing career[edit]

Bergon has published ten books—four novels, a critical study of Stephen Crane, and five edited collections and anthologies. A major concern of his work is with the lives of Basque Americans in the West.[2] His writing about Native Americans ranges from the Shoshone of Nevada[3] to the Maya of Chiapas, Mexico.[4]

His Nevada trilogy consists of three novels spanning a century from the Shoshone massacre of 1911 (Shoshone Mike),[5] to the shooting of Fish and Game officers by the self-styled mountain man Claude Dallas (Wild Game),[6] to the current battle over nuclear waste in the Nevada desert (The Temptations of St. Ed & Brother S).[7]

Bergon’s new California trilogy, beginning with the novel, Jesse’s Ghost, focuses on his Basque-Béarnais heritage[8] in the Central Valley of California. Jesse's Ghost 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[9] and non-fiction, such as in The Journals of Lewis and Clark.[10]

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[11] and The European Constitution in Verse.[12]

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.[13][14]


  • 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)


  • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 1979–80
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 1985–86
  • Finalist, Best Novel of the West, Western Writers of America, 1993
  • Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, 1998


  1. ^ Ann Ronald, "Nevada," in Updating the American West, ed. Thomas J. Lyons, Fort Worth; TX: Texas Christian University Press, 1997.
  2. ^ Monica Madinabeitia, “Getting to Know Frank Bergon: The Legacy of the Basque Indarra,” Journal of the Society of Basque Studies in America, 28 (2008).
  3. ^ James H. Maguire, "Fiction in the West," in The Columbia History of the American Novel, ed. Emory Elliott, New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.
  4. ^ Frank Bergon, “Come with Me to Reality,” Terra Nova: Nature and Culture, 3 (Winter 1998): 16-34.
  5. ^ “Top Twelve Westerns,” in Good Fiction Guide, ed. Jane Rogers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  6. ^ "Tiny Cards". New Yorker: 82. August 14, 1995.(subscription required)
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Gregory L. Morris, Frank Bergon, Boise, ID: Boise State University Press, Western Writers Series, 1997.
  9. ^ Jim Dwyer, “100 Best Books,” in Where the Wild Books Are: A Field Guide to Ecofiction, Reno: University of Nevada Press, pp. 125, 185.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ New European Poets, ed. Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer, Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2008.
  12. ^ The European Constitution in Verse, ed. David Van Reybrouck and Peter Vermeersch, Brussels: Passa Porta, 2009.
  13. ^ "Nevada Writers Hall of Fame: Frank Bergon". University of Nevada, Reno. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  14. ^ "Frank Bergon biography". Author's website. Retrieved 30 November 2017.

External links[edit]