Wayne D. Overholser

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Wayne D. Overholser (born September 4, 1906 in Pomeroy, Washington; † died August 27, 1996 in Boulder, Colorado), was an American Western writer. Overholser won the 1953 First Spur Award for best novel for Lawman using the pseudonym Lee Leighton. In 1955 he won the 1954 (second) Spur Award for The Violent Land. Three additional pseudonyms were John S. Daniels, Dan J. Stevens and Joseph Wayne.

Overholser had a number of pseudonyms, including Lee Leighton, John S. Daniels, Dan J. Stevens and Joseph Wayne, the last three combinations of his three sons' names. Wayne's father expected him to retrace his own steps through their Oregon barnyard, but the budding author had other goals in mind. He said, "It's a sad story. I think my dad didn't have the slightest idea where I came from or how I got into the family. I was a complete failure as a farmer and he didn't know what to do with me."

Later, Wayne didn't encourage nor discourage his own son, Steve, because full-time writing "is a precarious way to make a living."

Losing himself in books as a child, the elder Overholser enjoyed stories of King Arthur, Greek legends, Scottish chiefs, and the works of G.A, Henty. "I've always felt that there's a strong connection between the tales of King Arthur and Western stories of our time. And that may be one reason I liked to read and write Western stories."

As a member of his high school debating team, Wayne was interested in social and political problems, which he carried with him to the University of Oregon in Eugene, majoring in history with a minor in English. He then taught at the elementary level, gradually working his way up through the grades to high school, where he specialized in social studies.

The deep-voiced novelist remembered writing "some wild short stories" while a sophomore in high school. "At the time, the Ku Klux Klan was pretty notorious in Oregon, as they were in many other states. But the bloody story he envisioned never got past the title he wrote in pencil.

The novelist remembered his first short story sale in 1936. "That's one of the highest points in a writer's life. I was teaching junior high school in Tillamook, Oregon, and school had just started in September. I had a few stories back in New York with an agent but had never made a sale. Along about eleven o'clock, the school secretary came down the hall and tapped on the door of my classroom. She struck a check under my nose for $13.50, with a note from my agent that said, 'You are now an author.'"

His agent, who doubled as a writing coach, asked his clients for six to eight story outlines, one of which he selected for them to write. "I think he made more money out of the class he ran than from sales, but he remained in business for a good many years. So maybe he was a good agent, although I didn't stay with him long."

Wayne's long-term association with literary agent, Gus Lenninger, was a happy and profitable one. The novelist sold a hundred books over 38 years. He had also written hundreds of short stories and novelettes before the short story market dried up. Books were then a pulp writer's salvation. Disillusionment with the school district's pay scale motivated him to quit his teaching job to write full-time after ten years of part-time writing. The multi-Spur-award winner recalled being "looked down on, particularly by the English teachers, because pulp writing was not considered a very big thing."

The move from Oregon to Colorado was an important one for the Overholsers, although risky at best. The writer moved his wife and two small sons to the Village of Montrose, later buying a home in Boulder, where a group of writers lived. It was there his career as a novelist was established. "At that time, we didn't know what a chance we were taking, but any writer's life is filled with gambles. I look back and wonder how I ever had the guts to leave a teaching job in Oregon to move to Colorado, where we knew nobody, to start writing without a friend in the whole state."

His prolific writing stopped in 1983, when his eyesight began to fail and his Westerns no longer sold. "The combination of the two stopped me dead," but he admitted that if market conditions and his eyesight improved he would have liked to have another "crack at the Western market." During his declining years, he wrote sporadic bursts of poetry. And a number of his books were purchased by PaperJacks for reprints.

Wayne D. Overholser took pride in his three sons. "Steve is a better writer than I ever was," he said, but his second son protested.


  • Buckaroo's Code (1947)
  • West of the Rimrock (1949)
  • Draw or Drag (1950)
  • The Snake Stomper (1951) writing as Joseph Wayne
  • Law Man (1953) writing as Lee Leighton
  • Steel to the South (1953)
  • Fabulous Gunman (1954)
  • The Nester (1954) writing as John S. Daniels
  • Beyond the Pass (1956) writing as Lee Leighton
  • The Lone Deputy (1960)
  • The Killer Marshal (1961)
  • Standoff at the River (1961)
  • War in Sandoval County (1961)
  • The Bitter Night (1962)
  • The Judas Gun (1962)
  • The Trial of Billy Peale (1963)
  • A Gun for Johnny Deere (1964)
  • To the Far Mountains (1964)
  • Day of Judgement (1965) aka Colorado Incident
  • Big Ugly (1966) writing as Lee Leighton
  • Ride Into Danger (1967)
  • Summer of the Sioux (1967)
  • Hanging at Pulpit Rock (1967) writing as Lee Leighton
  • North to Deadwood (1968) published in German as Dakota Jones (1969)
  • The Meeker Massacre (1969) writing as Lewis B Patten
  • You'll never hang me (1971) writing as Lee Leighton
  • The Noose (1972)
  • The Long Trail North (1973)
  • Brand 99 (1974)
  • Diablo Ghost (1978)
  • The Trouble Kid (1978)
  • The Cattle Queen Feud (1979)
  • Cassidy (1980) writing as Lee Leighton
  • Sun on the Wall (1981)
  • Mason County War (1981)
  • Dangerous Patrol (1982)
  • The Long Wind (1986)
  • Bunch Grass (1986)
  • Gunplay Valley: The Sweet And Bitter Land (1987)
  • Return of the Kid (1987)
  • By Gun and Spur (1987)
  • Red Snow (1988)
  • The Dry Gulcher (1988)
  • Gunlock (1988)
  • Red Is the Valley (1988)
  • Land of Promises (1989)
  • Proud Journey (1989)
  • Valley of Guns (1991)
  • Cast a Long Shadow (1991)
  • Desperate Man (1992)
  • The Violent Land (1992)
  • Hearn's Valley (1992)
  • Tough Hand (1992)
  • The Hunted (1994)
  • The Patriarch of Gunsight Flat (1996)
  • They Hanged Wild Bill Murphy (1996)
  • Nightmare in Broken Bow (1997)
  • Nugget City (1997)
  • War Party (1997) writing as John S. Daniels
  • The Violent Men (1997)
  • Riders of the Sundowns (1997)
  • Buckskin Man (1998)
  • The Petticoat Brigade (1998)
  • Oregon Trunk (1998)
  • Chumley's Gold (1999)
  • Ride the Red Trail (2000)
  • Tales of the West (2000)
  • Gunflame (2000)
  • The Outlaws (2000)
  • Gateway House (2001)
  • Revenge in Crow City (2001)
  • Rainbow Rider (2001)
  • The Day the Killers Came (2002)
  • The Three Sons of Adam Jones (2003)
  • The Bad Man (2003)
  • Wild Horse River (2003)
  • The Law at Miles City (2004)
  • Bitter Wind (2006)
  • Fight for the Valley (2007) writing as Lee Leighton
  • Tomahawk (2009) writing as Lee Leighton
  • Pass Creek Valley (2009)
  • Shadow on the Land (2009)
  • Law at Angel's Landing (2010)
  • The Man from Yesterday (2010)
  • Death of a Cattle King (2011)
  • Ten Mile Valley (2012)
  • The Waiting Gun (2013)
  • Swampland Empire (2013)


  • The Best Western Stories of Wayne D. Overholser (1984) aka The Best Western Stories

Overholser was also referred to in Stephen King's "Wolves of the Calla" in the Dark Tower Series. Not only was he referred to as a writer but Overholser was also the name of a character in the town of Calla Bryn Sturgis (a town in "Wolves of the Calla).