The three greatest icons of the Western novel are Zane Grey, Max Brand, and Louis L'Amour. Sure, other authors have written multiple Western novels, but these three made their names synonymous with the genre. (Actually, Max Brand was a pen name.) Together, these three authors wrote nearly 500 Westerns and countless short stories.
Zane Grey published Westerns from 1908 until his death in 1939. Actually, he left such a large stockpile of manuscripts that Harper & Brothers published a novel per year under his name until 1963.
|Frederick Faust, aka Max Brand|
Max Brand published his first Western in 1919 and continued writing in the genre until his death in 1944. Similar to Zane Grey, publishers continued to bring his work out in new editions. For example, in 2007, Five Star Westerns published Acres of Unrest from a 1926 magazine series.
Louis L'Amour published his first Western in 1951. His last Western published while he was alive was The Haunted Mesa (1987). Like his genre predecessors, books under his name continued to be published long after his death, many of which were short story collections.
These three may not have been the greatest authors who have ever written about the American frontier, but they were great storytellers. (Okay, my vote would actually go to Mark Twain as the best Western author.) Storytelling has always been a revered art form and has been around since man first exaggerated his hunting prowess. In fact, storytelling might be the real oldest profession.
In the early days, stories were spoken—handed down generation to generation. Cave dwellers began the notion of illustrated stories with petroglyphs, while during the middle-ages; stained-glass served the same purpose. The novel came to fruition only after widespread literacy and it nurtured its own artistic standards. Have these three authors ever met those artistic standards? I believe the answer is yes, especially in their best work.