Ivan Doig

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Ivan Clark Doig
Born (1939-06-27)June 27, 1939
White Sulphur Springs, Montana, U.S.
Died April 9, 2015(2015-04-09)
Seattle, Washington
Occupation author, journalist, novelist
Spouse Carol Muller Doig; professor of journalism

I don’t think of myself as a ‘Western’ writer”. To me, language — the substance on the page, that poetry under the prose — is the ultimate ‘region,’ the true home, for a writer.

If I have any creed that I wish you as readers, necessary accomplices in this flirtatious ceremony of writing and reading, will take with you from my pages, it’d be this belief of mine that writers of caliber can ground their work in specific land and lingo and yet be writing of that larger country: life.

— Ivan Doig[1]

Ivan Doig (June 27, 1939 – April 9, 2015) was an American author and novelist, widely known for his seventeen books, both fiction and non-fiction, set mostly in his native Montana, celebrating the landscape and people of the post-war American West.

With settings ranging from the Rocky Mountain Front to Alaska’s coast, Puget Sound and Oregon, the Chicago Tribune noted in 1987 that Doig wrote of "immigrant families, dedicated schoolteachers, miners, fur trappers, town builders"[2] and of "the uncertainties of friendship and love, and colossal battles of will, set amid the vast unpredictabilities of a land noted for sudden deadly floods, agonizing droughts, blizzards and forest fires."[2] Doig himself would later say "I come from the lariat proletariat, the working-class point of view."[1]

“This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind,” Doig's 1977 memoir, was finalist for the National Book Award for Contemporary Thought, and in 2007, Doig won the University of Colorado's Center of the American West's Wallace Stegner Award.[1] Doig's 2006 novel "The Whistling Season" became a New York Times best-seller. He won the Western Literature Association's lifetime Distinguished Achievement award[1] and held the distinction of the only living author with works of both fiction and non-fiction listed in the top 12 of the San Francisco Chronicle poll of best books of the 20th century.[3]

In 2006, Sven Birkerts described Doig as “a presiding figure in the literature of the American West.”[1]


Doig was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana[4] to Charles "Charlie" Doig, ranch hand and Bernita Ringer Doig,[4] ranch cook. After the death of his mother on his sixth birthday, he was raised by his father and his grandmother Elizabeth "Bessie" Ringer. Doig moved with his father and grandmother on a series of jobs, the ranch equivalent of sharecropping, subsequently moving to Dupuyer, Montana to herd sheep close to the Rocky Mountain Front. As a child, Doig read comics, sports pages and magazines like Life, Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post.[5]

After his graduation from Valier High School, where he graduated from a class of 21,[1] Doig attended Northwestern University, receiving a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in journalism — his master's thesis on the subject of televised congressional hearings on organized crime.[2] He later earned a Ph.D. in American history at the University of Washington, writing his dissertation on John J. McGilvra (1827-1903).

Important first-hand influences on his writing included his high school English and Latin teacher, Frances Tidyman; Sam Jamison, who taught him reporting at Northwestern; and Ben Baldwin, who taught him broadcast news.[5]

Doig lived with his wife Carol Doig, née Muller, a university professor of English, in Seattle, Washington until his death from multiple myeloma in 2015.[6]


Before Doig became a novelist, he wrote for newspapers and magazines as a free-lancer and worked for the United States Forest Service. Doig served as an editorial writer for the Lindsay-Schaub newspaper chain in Decatur, Illinois,[2] before serving as assistant editor of The Rotarian magazine in Evanston, Illinois.[3]

The western landscape and people play an important role in Doig's fiction, with much of it set in the Montana country of his youth. His major theme is family life in the past, mixing personal memory and regional history. The first three Montana novels—English Creek, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and Ride with Me, Mariah Montana, form the "McCaskill trilogy", covering the first century of Montana's statehood from 1889 to 1989.



  • The Sea Runners (1982)
  • English Creek (1984)
  • Dancing at the Rascal Fair (1987)
  • Ride with Me, Mariah Montana (1990)
  • Bucking the Sun (1996)
  • Mountain Time (1999)
  • Prairie Nocturne (2003)
  • The Whistling Season (2006)
  • The Eleventh Man (2008)
  • Work Song (2010)
  • The Bartender's Tale (2012)
  • Sweet Thunder (2013)
  • Last Bus to Wisdom (2015)


  • News: A Consumer's Guide (1972) - a media textbook coauthored by Carol Doig
  • This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind (1979) - memoirs based on the author's life with his father and grandmother (nominated for National Book Award)
  • Heart Earth (1993) - memoirs based on his mother's letters to her brother Wally
  • Winter Brothers: A Season at the Edge of America (1980) - an essayistic dialog with James G. Swan

Edited volumes[edit]

  • Streets We Have Come Down: Literature of the City (1975)
  • Utopian America: Dreams and Realities (1976)


  • Finalist, National Book Award, This House of Sky –1979[5]
  • Christopher Award, This House of Sky – 1979[5]
  • Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award for Literary Excellence – 1979, 1981,1983, 1985, 1988, 1994, 2007[5]
  • Doctor of Letters, Montana State University – 1984[5]
  • National Endowment for the Arts fellowship –1985[5]
  • Western Heritage Award, Best Western Novel (English Creek) – 1985[5]
  • Doctor of Letters, Lewis and Clark College, 1987[5]
  • Western Literature Association's Distinguished Achievement Award – 1989[5]
  • Evans Biography Award (Heart Earth) –1993[5]
  • Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association (MPBA) 'Spirit of the West' award – 1997[5]
  • Pacific Northwest Writers Association Achievement Award – 2002[5]
  • Center for the American West's Wallace Stegner Award – 2007[5]
  • One Read book (Whistling Season) for Daniel Boone Regional Library, Missouri – 2008[5]
  • Willamette Writers' Lifetime Achievement Award – 2014[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f SAM ROBERTS (April 10, 2015). "Ivan Doig, Author Who Lived the Western Life, Dies at 75". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b c d Peter Gorner (December 10, 1987). "Montana Novelist Ivan Doig Is One Of A Number Of Regional Writers Yearning For Wider Pastures". The Chicago Tribune. 
  3. ^ a b David Murray and Scott Thompson (April 9, 2015). "Acclaimed author Ivan Doig dies". Great Falls Tribune. 
  4. ^ a b Carolynn Kellogg (April 9, 2015). "Author Ivan Doig, 75, dies". The LA Times. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Ivan Doig: Novelist, Memoirist, Journalist". Authorsroad.com. 
  6. ^ "Acclaimed Montana author Ivan Doig dies at 75," The Billings Gazette, April 9, 2015.

External links[edit]