New book celebrates Washington's literary heritage

 PULLMAN, Wash.— Written to spark interest in and celebrate the Northwest’s literary heritage, a new essay collection, "Salmon Eaters to Sagebrushers: Washington’s Lost Literary Legacy", has just been published by Washington State University (WSU) Press.

Author Peter Donahue hopes readers will share his delight in discovering these early novels, memoirs, and poems about the Northwest. Based on his popular, long-running Retrospective Review column in the Washington State Historical Society journal Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History, Donahue’s new book is a hybrid of literary criticism, history, and biography. He combines reappraisals of more than forty titles with short excerpts and author profiles, including Helene Glidden, Archie Binns, and Puget Sound journalist, June Burn.

"Salmon Eaters to Sagebrushers" gives an informed and careful examination of their “vintage” fiction, nonfiction, and poetry works—all at least fifty years old. These long-forgotten Washington State classics once enjoyed wide regional, national, and even international readership. Some were bestsellers. Stories of 1850s Puget Sound, homesteading on Sentinel Island, living in a Patos Island lighthouse, piloting Columbia River paddleboats, nursing an orphan bear cub, the logging industry, and more, captured readers’ imaginations. They offered vivid depictions of the region’s people and places, and sometimes, harsh renderings that contrasted previously whitewashed history. While most have fallen out of print and circulation, collectively they reveal an impressive legacy.

Each of the included authors made notable contributions to Northwest literature. The selections span 70 years—from the end of the pioneer period in the late 1800s to the mid-1960s—and evoke countless aspects of the Northwest. In portraying everyday life, presenting sub-regions such as the Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands, and casting a critical eye on social issues such as white settlement and early industrialization, they reflect how Northwesterners regarded themselves and their region throughout most of the last century—perceptions that continue to shape Northwest identity.

Peter Donahue is the author of four works of fiction set in Washington, including Madison House and Three Sides Water, and is co-editor of the anthologies Reading Seattle and Reading Portland. He currently teaches English at Wenatchee Valley College-Omak in the Okanogan Valley. In Fall 2015, he and co-editor Sheela McLean published an abridged and annotated version of Seven Years on the Pacific Slope, Mrs. Hugh Fraser’s memoir about Methow Valley life.

Salmon Eaters to Sagebrushers is paperback, 6" x 9", 268 pages, and lists for $26.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from WSU Press at 800-354-7360, or online at A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.




Chapter 1: Early Novelists

Ada Woodruff Anderson

Ella Higginson

Mourning Dove

Peter B. Kyne

Chapter 2: Early Poets

Mary J. Elmendorf

Audrey Wurdeman

Ethelyn Miller Hartwich

Chapter 3: The Big Three

Nard Jones

Patricia Campbell

Archie Binns

Chapter 4: Nature Writers

Floyd Schmoe

Martha Hardy

Irving Petite

Hazel Heckman

Chapter 5: Women Memoirists

Mrs. Hugh Fraser

June Burn

Norah Berg

Helene Glidden

Beatrice Cook

Mary Bard, Charlotte Paul

Chapter 6: Historical Novelists

Melvin Levy

Mary Brinker Post

Helen Rucker

Edwin Parker

Anita Pettibone

Zola Ross

Chapter 7: Rural Life

Allis McKay

Elizabeth Marion

Evelyn Bolster

Margaret Thompson

Leland Frederick Cooley

Nancy Wilson Ross

Chapter 8: The City

Alan Hart

Edna Ferber

Frank J. Clancy

Ralph Bushnell Potts

Elizabeth Sale

Babette Hughes

Chapter 9: Work

Three Proletarian Novels

William Attaway

James Stevens

Robert Cantwell

Edward Dorn

Coda:  Literary Life Seattle Writers Club



About the Author


High Living Eliza / The Royal Anne Tree

Lady on the Beach

Laugh and Lie Down

Lightship / The Timber Beast

Cappy Ricks or The Subjugation of Matt Peasley

A Year in Paradise

The Undaunted

The Rim of the Desert


Light Down, Stranger

Still to the West / The Island Marching! Marching!

The Elderberry Tree

They Came to a River

Mariella of Out-West

Sir Boss


Space for Living: A Novel of Grand Coulee and the Columbia River

God’s High Table

Morning Shows the Day

The Doctor Wears

Three Faces

The Day Will Come

The Light on the Island The Last Pioneers

Great Son

Cargo of Brides

Annie Jordan: A Novel of Seattle

Minding Our Own Business

Recitation Memory


Island Year

Seven Years on the Pacific Slope

Till Fish Us Do Part

Cogewea, The Half-Blood Brawnyman

Let Me Breathe


By the Sound Doctor Come Quickly!

“Sufficient Darkness” / “Rough Weather Bird”

Cassy Scandal

“Two Wives”

I, My Ancestor

Last Night When We Were Young

“Spring Song”


  • Linda
    Linda Monday, 11 November 2019 08:07 Comment Link

    I don't see Betty MacDonald on the list?

    The Egg and I
    The Plague and I
    Anybody Can Do Anything
    Onions in the Stew

  • Linda Hudson
    Linda Hudson Monday, 11 November 2019 08:05 Comment Link

    The Light on the Island, by Helene Glidden

    This book is NOT: titled The Light on the Island The Last Pioneers


Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.

back to top