The Virginian was published in 1902, by Owen Wister (1860-1938). The novel received critical acclaim and was a huge bestseller, eventually spawning five films, a successful play, and a television series. The Virginian was an instant success, selling over 20,000 copies in the first month, an astonishing number for the time. It went on to sell over 200,000 copies in the first year, and over a million and a half prior to Wister’s death. This minor classic has never been out of print. Beyond the multiple works that carry its name, The Virginian has inspired hundreds of stories about the Old West.
The Virginian is a story about people, people who happen to have been transplanted from a more civil society to the frontier. It’s basically a fish out of water story. The narrator of this classic was Owen Wister himself. As I read this book, I thought how cool would it be for the Easterner to be more than an observer. What if he became personally involved in the adventures of the Wild West? And that’s how The Virginian inspired the Steve Dancy series. As homage to the original, the first scene of The Shopkeeper opens with a whist card game—the same game Wister's cowboys play in the bunkhouse.