Thomas Savage (novelist)

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Thomas Savage
A man sitting, smoking a cigarette.
Thomas Savage, circa 1976
Born Thomas Savage
(1915-04-25)April 25, 1915
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Died July 25, 2003(2003-07-25) (aged 88)
Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States
Occupation novelist
Nationality American
Genre Western
Notable works Power of the Dog (1967), A Strange God (1974), I Heard My Sister Speak My Name (1977), The Corner of Rife and Pacific (1988)
Spouse Elizabeth (Fitzgerald) Savage

Robert Brassil Savage
Russell Yearian Savage, sons

Elizabeth St. Mark Main, daughter

Thomas Savage (April 25, 1915 – July 25, 2003) was an American author of 13 novels published between 1944 and 1988. He is best known for his Western novels, which drew on early experiences in the American West.[1]


Savage was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1915 to Elizabeth (Yearian) and Benjamin Savage. His parents divorced when he was two years old and, when his mother remarried three years later, he moved with her to a ranch in Beaverhead County, Montana.[2] After graduating from Beaverhead County High School, he studied writing at Montana State College (today the University of Montana), transferring to Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where he courted Montana native Elizabeth Fitzgerald (later to become the novelist Elizabeth Savage), whom he had met in Missoula. They married in 1939 and received B.A. degrees in 1940.[3][4]

By the time he was twenty-nine, Savage had worked as a wrangler, ranch hand, welder, and railroad brakeman.[5] Following the publication of his first novel (The Pass) and the birth of his first two children, Robert and Russell, Savage secured a teaching position at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, where he taught from 1947–1948. His daughter Elizabeth was born in 1949, the same year he left Suffolk for an assistant professorship at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. By 1955, Savage was able to stop teaching and focus on his writing full-time.[6]

In 1955, Savage and his wife, the novelist Elizabeth Savage, purchased a home in Georgetown, Maine, where they would remain for nearly thirty years. She wrote many novels, including The Last Night at the Ritz. In 1982, the Savages built a home on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, on property given to him by a sister he met only in adulthood.[2] He published the last of his 13 novels in 1988. Set in Montana, "The Corner of Rife and Pacific" follows the founders of a tiny Montana town over several generations.

After the death of his wife in 1989, Savage lived briefly in Seattle and San Francisco, before moving to Virginia Beach, Virginia, in order to be near his daughter. His son, the writer Robert Brassil Savage, died in 2001 in a "freak accident".[7]

Thomas died in Virginia, July 25, 2003, at the age of eighty-eight.

Writing career[edit]

Savage published his first story, "The Bronc Stomper", in 1937 in Coronet under the name Tom Brenner. Annie Proulx has noted that the story was "unremarkable except for its unusual subject matter", breaking a horse.[2]

His last novel, The Corner of Rife and Pacific, was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award[8] and received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award in 1989.

When asked to speak of his influences, Savage stated "Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell, is one of the best novels I ever read. I was influenced by John Steinbeck, Robert Benchley, and Dorothy Parker. I was a history major, read little fiction, chiefly biography and history. I read S.J. Perelman."[9]




  • The Pass (1944)
  • Lona Hanson (1948)
  • A Bargain with God (1953)
  • Trust in Chariots (1961)
  • The Power of the Dog (1967)
  • The Liar (1969)
  • Daddy's Girl (1970)
  • A Strange God (1974)
  • Midnight Line (1976)
  • I Heard My Sister Speak My Name (1977) (now published as The Sheep Queen)
  • Her Side of It (1981)
  • For Mary with Love (1983)
  • The Corner of Rife and Pacific (1988)


  1. ^ Colby University Magazine
  2. ^ a b c Annie Proulx (2001). "Afterword" in Thomas Savage, The Power of the Dog. Warner Trade. 
  3. ^ "Obituaries". Colby Magazine. Colby College. Winter 2004. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Thomas Savage, 88; Writer Best-Known for Western Novels Set in Montana". Los Angeles Times. 2003-08-30. Retrieved November 8, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Thomas Savage, 88, Novelist Drawn to the American West". The New York Times. 2003-08-25. Retrieved November 8, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Thomas Savage Biography-Thomas Savage Comments". Brief Biographies. Retrieved November 8, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Obituaries". Colby Magazine. Colby College. Fall 2003. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  8. ^ "5 Nominated for PEN Fiction Awards". ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007). 1989-03-03. 
  9. ^ "Thomas Savage". Gale Biography in Context. 2001. 

External links[edit]