Hardcover pub. date
January 1990
ISBN 0870715003 (hardcover)
5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, 320 pages.
out of print

Oregon Detour

Nard Jones
Introduction by George Venn

Oregon Detour was first published in 1930, the first novel of a young Northwest journalist who became one of the region's best-known writers. Its new realist depiction of Weston, Oregon — thinly disguised as "Creston" — shocked some Weston residents and created a controversy that still lingers today. Nard Jones portrays the people of this small town in eastern Oregon wheat country with directness and compassion — their dreams, toil, passions, and tragedies.

About the author

Nard Jones (1904-1972) was a full-time journalist who also wrote seventeen books, published more than three hundred stories in popular magazines, and broadcast numerous radio programs. He published twelve novels, including a national bestseller, Swift Flows the River, as well as a history of Washington State, Evergreen Land, and The Great Command, a history of the Whitman Mission.

Read more about this author


One January day in 1978, as students were bundling up to leave my Western Literature class, a girl who always sat in the back row approached me at the lectern. She asked me if I'd heard of a writer called Nard Jones and could she read one of his books for a paper due in three weeks. I didn't know this student well. She was a freshman. She'd done C work in the course so far. She'd been absent a time or two. I asked her which book she was interested in.

"Well, there's this one that people keep stealing from the library at home," she said. I thought I saw a kind of gleam in her eye. I must have looked doubtful. "Really, it's true," she said.

"Where's home?" I asked.

"Weston. Over by Walla Walla," she said and pointed northwest.

"Which book is it that people steal?" I asked.

"I don't know. My mother's got a copy, I think. She's friends with the librarian."

"You grew up there?" I asked.

"Twelve years," she said.

"Well, it should make an interesting paper. Find out as much as you can. Talk to the librarian. Let me know if I can help."

"Oh, good," she said, and I'm still sure she went out with a great smile on her face, as though something about her life was suddenly worthy after all.

That was my introduction to Oregon Detour, Nard Jones's first novel and the first "New Realist" novel written in the Northwest. The student did read the book and wrote her paper, but her project raised more questions than it answered. For instance, she said that the author had been run out of town, that he'd been sued, that he'd written an awful book about the town's good people, and that everyone stole the novel. As I read this something in me began to doubt. Was something being left out? I started to wonder how I might verify any of this.

To begin, I looked through my own research files for a survey of libraries in Eastern Oregon I'd done in 1973, to find what the librarian of Weston had, indeed, said in response to my question: "In your judgment, who are the most important authors who've written about Eastern Oregon?" The Weston librarian had replied:

DeVoto. Probably best known. Parkman. I think Nard ]ones progressed into a good writer… I can't think of any more really important ones.

Given the student's paper, this was strange. I looked through the librarian's responses for more information. She had listed all of Jones's regional works except Oregon Detour. Something was being left out. That began to bother me. I'd clearly invited her at numerous places in the five-page questionnaire to mention any fiction about the region.

The more I thought about the apparent omission and the student's paper, the more I wanted to find out what had actually happened. To support that research interest, I wrote a grant proposal to the Oregon Committee for the Humanities, and they generously funded the project for the summer of 1981. To prepare myself for interviews in Weston about the novel, I read ten years of the town paper, the Weston Leader, and I dug into Nard Jones's literary past for weeks with the help of librarians at Eastern Oregon State College, Whitman, Umatilla County, and the University of Washington. With the help of Jones's sister, Audrey Jones Baker, his son, Blair, his second wife, Anne Mynar Jones, and his daughter, Debbie Jones, I was given invaluable access to Jones's papers, biography, and Weston history. Thirty-five residents of the Weston area granted me interviews during the spring and summer of 1981, which allowed me to complete an intensive research project in six months.

That summary does leave out some notable facts: the specific hospitality of Cliff Price, George Gottfried, Hugh Gilliland, Wayne O'Harra, and Willmarth Reynaud — Weston people who treated me kindly as a wanderer; the wild-eyed fanatic who walked into the Umatilla County Library in Pendleton and said to the librarian, "You're not fooling God with this library and all your books," then stomped out as I drew the only local copies — noncirculating — of Oregon Detour closer to me; my two-year search for a copy of the novel that was rewarded in the Green Dolphin in Portland one rainy night; the immediate sources of affection that sustained me: food brought morning, noon, and night by loving hands, the doe at the spring in the mountain dusk, the generous fertile country where I found wild strawberries…

Since the initial publication of this essay in Marking The Magic Circle (Oregon State University Press, 1987), I have received responses from Margaret Sutherland, the Weston public librarian whom I also interviewed in 1981, and from her pastor, Rev. Dave Cassel. Their responses provided new information which has been partially incorporated here. Hence, they have given this new version of the essay additional clarity and potentially greater accuracy.

I presented what follows at Concordia College, Umatilla County Library, and at the Pendleton Rendezvous, but the project really culminated for me when, one April afternoon in 1983, I stood before the assembled student body of Weston-McEwen High School in Athena, the school Jones himself would have attended if he were growing up in Weston today. Waiting in that shining gymnasium for silence, I reviewed my notes and watched the energy and excitement in the bleachers turn to attention. I hoped I was ready. For about half an hour, I told them the Oregon Detour story as I'd been able to find it. At the end of my talk, I read them part of a chapter about high school seniors from Weston going to Pendleton after graduation for a night on the town. The bleachers began to whistle and cheer. I stopped reading, looked up, waited, then read a few more sentences. They laughed. I read on, stopping while they responded, then reading on again. They loved it. Only when the bell jangled at the end of the day did they let me stop. Busses were coming, cars waiting.

On my way out, the principal stopped me in the front hall. He was a big man who'd gone to school locally and returned to teach. "Nothing's changed," he said. "That part you read? I did that too. These kids will do it too. It's all still the same. Even graduation." As he spoke, students were streaming by with coats and books and packs — voices rich, magnificent, and opening to the spring outside. I hoped there was another novelist among them. At least, I thought, they now have heard that writing fiction was a possibility — even here. At best, if I'd done my work well enough, Oregon Detour might again be included as a worthy interpretation of its generative community.

Among writers who grew up in the Northwest between the world wars, Nard Jones (1904-1972) cast himself a complex career as a full-time journalist who also wrote seventeen books, published more than three hundred stories in popular magazines, and broadcast numerous radio programs. He published twelve novels, including his national bestseller, Swift Flows the River, Evergreen Land, a history of Washington, and The Pacific Northwest, a regional history co-authored with Stewart Holbrook and Roderick Haig-Brown. Still selling at the Whitman National Monument is Jones's popular history of the Whitman Mission, The Great Command. As a journalist, Jones edited for Miller-Freeman trade publications in Seattle and New York for nearly 24 years, then went to work for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1953, where he held various editorial posts, including chief editorial writer, until his retirement in 1970. Seattle, a history and memoir, appeared posthumously in 1972 from Doubleday.1 While Jones's writing still waits for major critical2 attention, his first novel, Oregon Detour, remains important as the first novel by a Northwest writer to use the aesthetics of the "New Realism" established by Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, and Scott Fitzgerald a decade earlier. Oregon Detour is further distinguished because it has been the object of fifty years of censorship in Weston, Oregon, where Jones lived from 1919 to 1927. Like other New Realist novels across the country, from Hergersheimer's Cytherea banned from his hometown library in West Chester, Pennsylvania, to Lawrence's Women in Love banned by New York Customs officials, to Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis banned in Boston by the local D.A. — not to mention a host of others — Nard Jones's first novel could not be regularly kept on the shelves of the Weston Public Library between 1931 and 1981. Some people said the novel was absent because it was out of print, others said the novel had been stolen during the 1930s, others suggested the novel had been indirectly banned prior to 1955. Also, the novel was removed from the Weston High School Library shortly after publication. This essay attempts to document and examine the history of Oregon Detour, an almost unknown novel prior to this printing.


After graduating from Whitman College in 1926 with highest honors in English, Nard Jones returned to Weston, Oregon, to live with his family and to work in the family general store. During that year at home, he continued the literary career he had started at Whitman. He wrote fifteen stories for the popular pulp magazines, a New York market he had been quick to understand. He also wrote weekly editorials for the Weston Leader's publisher, Clark Wood,3 who was also Jones's literary mentor. Jones's weekly columns showed the major literary influences of his Whitman education: the polemic style of H. L. Mencken, the New Realism of Sinclair Lewis, and the small town interests of Sherwood Anderson.

Also, during that year at home, Nard Jones began to work on Oregon Detour, a project he'd started at Whitman when he learned from Professor Russell Blankenship that a realistic novel in the manner of Main Street had not been written about any Northwest community.

In September 1927, Jones moved to Seattle to work on two Miller-Freeman trade publications, Pacific Motorboat and Western Woodworker. In a sense, returning to Seattle was going home. He'd been born in that city in 1904 and had lived there for the first thirteen years of his life, a time when he had enjoyed great personal freedom because his family had owned a hotel there. Now, after eleven years away — California, Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon — he returned as a fast-rising magazine writer, recent college graduate, new editor, and budding novelist. He moved into a hotel, edited for Miller-Freeman during the day and, bolstered by shots4 of whiskey which could make him dangerous, wrote Oregon Detour and short stories during the evenings. In June 1928, he married Elizabeth Dunphy, the daughter of Walla Walla's leading lawyer and member of a wheat-ranching pioneer family. In March 1929, he hired Brandt and Brandt, literary agents in New York, and sent off the Oregon Detour manuscript. Within fifteen days, his new agent had sold the book to Payson and Clarke for $500 plus 10% royalties to $5,000, 15% thereafter.5

Here, then, was a Northwest literary boomer. At 25, he was a veteran of print, a quick learner, a skilled amateur actor with a taste for whiskey, jokes, and self-dramatization. Short, dark-haired, quick, handsome, slender, ambitious, Jones was a compelling presence. To complete this picture of sudden success — comparable to none in the region — all Nard Jones needed to hear was the comment of William Rose Benet, Assistant Editor of Saturday Review and Payson and Clarke's chief editor: "Your book seems to be one of the most promising first novels that I have read in some time."6 After some correspondence between Benet and Jones about revisions, Jones's novel went to press and was released in early 1930. From coast to coast, Oregon Detour quickly attracted critical approval.

In Weston, Oregon, however, events had progressed toward publication somewhat differently. Clark Wood, the Weston Leader's publisher, had been trying for nine months to prepare the Weston audience for his protegé's novel. Wood had published a letter from Jones in April 1929, in which Jones wrote:

The hero of this book is the harvest. And any of my friends who circulate the rumor that any of its people are such-and-such persons will be shot in cold blood — even though I have to do it myself. This will take months of time, as I am the most damnable shot in the eleven Western states (April 29, 1929).

In October 1929, Wood had reprinted a complimentary national review of the novel containing the statement that "There is no bitterness in the book. No sarcasm. In writing of his people, the author has not forsaken them." Just before the novel was released, Wood further noted that "Weston is [the] locale but characters are fictitious." This evidence suggests that both Wood and Jones knew controversy was rising like thunderheads over Weston Mountain.

On January 17, 1930, Oregon Detour went on sale in the local drugstore, just a few yards from Jones's home on Water Street. (His father was mayor of Weston, a leading businessman, and an avid community booster.) All copies of the first shipment sold immediately for $2.50 each. Those who couldn't afford to buy the novel rented a copy from friends at 25¢ and read it. The Weston librarian, Josephine Godwin, another of Jones's literary mentors, added the book to the public library. It was immediately checked out by a family friend, then by the doctor's wife who read the novel aloud to her husband at bedtime. They laughed over each page and considered the novel a "boy's look at his hometown." Many of the surrounding wheat farmers who did business with the Jones and Jones Mercantile also bought copies of the novel. They felt it was a good-humored use of risqué local events. Some snickered that the pious now appeared only sanctimonious. Young married couples in the community — Jones's peers — were especially anxious to read the novel because the word quickly spread that Oregon Detour contained "real people."7

Nevertheless, a segment of Weston's six hundred people were furious. They were reading Oregon Detour as reporting. They called the novel vulgar. They objected to its "hard-talking sloppy lingo," and to Jones's use of names like Fanny Breast and Rev. Alfred Horliss. They objected to his explicit use of sexuality. Those who protested were generally members of two socially powerful groups in Weston, the Methodist Church and the Saturday Afternoon Club, both dominated by socially prominent women who held formidable powers over cultural life in the community. For instance, the Saturday Afternoon Club gave monthly literary programs, reviewed proper books, encouraged musical events, controlled the library board prior to 1955, and at one time owned the city park — which they later gave to the city of Weston. Their membership was by invitation only.

According to Nard Jones's sister, who was still living with her family in Weston when the novel appeared, a Saturday Afternoon Club member approached her on the street. As she recalled the encounter,

This woman said, I'm not sure what her words were, but it was something like she thought it was terrible that Nard might have put people in Weston into his book. I remember I was so shocked. I was fifteen, I guess, and I turned around to her and I said, "Mrs. —, I really think that people must feel terribly important to think that they're in somebody's novel." I turned around and walked away8

Many women in this group refused to read the novel after they heard about its characters and language. It was publicly stated to this writer that there was also a mass book burning to rid Weston of Oregon Detour. It was also suggested that somewhere in a Weston attic lies a trunkful of copies waiting to be discovered.

Even though he lived several hundred miles away, Nard Jones immediately felt the tremors of outrage created by his novel in Weston. His response, published by Clark Wood in the January 24 edition of the Weston Leader, is worth reprinting here in its entirety as the only document of its kind in Northwest literature — a New Realist asking his subject community to read their lives as literature rather than as reporting:

It's Only Fiction

To whom it may concern: It has been brought to my attention that individuals are looking upon certain passages in Oregon Detour as reflective of truth. This is regrettable and far from the real purpose of the author.

Only three actual names appear in this volume: they are merely mentioned in one or two sentences and this mention is intended as a compliment. All other characters are fictional, though necessitating common names which would naturally be duplicated in this and thousands of other books and communities.

It is perhaps needless to say that what happens in "Creston" may happen in a hundred other wheat towns. It is also needless to say that the writer would not intentionally speak in a derogatory manner of those toward whom he has the highest regard.

Authors are frequently confronted with this situation, and it is no new thing. I am sure that the great majority of my hometown people will read the book purely as a story, not attempting to weave into it any information which happens to be in their own minds — but which was not in the mind of the author as he wrote.

Very truly yours,
Nard Jones

Apparently, Jones's effort to encourage his Weston audience to accept his fictional masque did not succeed. In Weston, the novel was read in 1930 and is still read today as "about Weston" by the majority of residents. Trying to figure out or trying to remember who the "real people" were in the novel is still a local pastime. There is no evidence that the novel was ever understood as literature, as a statement by Jones that Northwest small town life is-at best-a dangerous idyll.

Biographical evidence also suggests that It's Only Fiction was as much a feigned professional pose as it was an effort to claim his innocent intentions. Jones was not afraid of controversy. In fact he sought it. At Whitman College, he scandalized the campus his senior year by writing and publishing an underground sheet called Spasm. His editorship of Blue Moon, the campus literary magazine he founded, was constantly under challenge for publishing "blue" literature rather than writing of the "sunny side." His Weston Leader columns were often pure provocation. Thus, the professional innocence projected here only conceals a part of Jones that was iconoclastic.

However, other evidence suggests that Jones was not invulnerable to the snarl of the Weston status quo. Most significant in this respect must have been his now lost letter to Clark Wood in April 1930, to which Wood responded as follows:

Dear Nard:

Have no regrets about your novel. It was a good yarn — the proof being that I was absorbed in it myself when usually I don't care a damn about anything except a detective story with a mysterious murder in the first chapter — preferably a double murder.

The sex stuff naturally caused some comment around here, but they ate it up. Those who didn't buy the book borrowed it. I realized that you had to put in this sort of stuff in order to sell the yarn and I thought you handled it with extreme skill.

Some of the descriptive work — notably the flood and the wheat harvest — was strongly done, and was almost as good as yours truly could have evolved.

Forget it, boy. You haven't lost any real friends around this burg.


April 76, 19309

The tone of Wood's letter suggests that Jones needed to be reassured about his potential loss of popularity at home. Evidently, behind the young New Realist's mask lived a writer both sentimental and nostalgic about Weston — a town where he'd actually been given the impetus to become a writer, a town he would visit annually for most of his life, a town where he gave copies of his books to the library, a town he wrote about in both fiction and journalism for the rest of his career.10 Private sources also confirm that Jones himself was "very, very shy… he was not a daring person." He hated flying and avoided autograph parties as much as possible." Even though he could call on national reviews, Clark Wood, and New Realism to shield him, a part of Jones was still vulnerable to the possibility of local dishonor.


Of course, Jones tried to convert this furor into a joke for Northwest writers who read The Frontier, the region's leading literary magazine. In the November 1930 issue, Jones reported his recent news in this fashion:

Nard Jones, Seattle, is finishing a second novel, Sin of Angels, for spring publication. He has two long stories and a short to College Life: "Hollywood," "Expatriates," and "Please May I Have Another?" For the past three years Mr. Jones engaged in trade journal work. Recently he took the Oregon Detour by auto — "without being shot at, or hanged."12

While levity here worked to preserve some professional dignity, more important adjustments were going on at the typewriter, where Jones had just finished his second novel, The Petlands, and was at work on his third, Wheat Women. In advance notices for Wheat Women published in the Weston Leader in November, Jones continued to respond:

I am doing another wheat novel in order to show the other side of the picture depicted in Oregon Detour. That book showed many of the faults of the wheat land; this new wheat story will show many of its virtues. It will probably, therefore, be longer.13

Is Jones attempting here to recover from what he's decided were his excesses in Oregon Detour? Is he playing to an offended audience with tongue in cheek? Is this the final evidence that he himself was unprepared for the implications of his first book? All seem likely. He was also careful to add a disclaimer to the front matter of The Petlands, in which he reminded his readers that the "story of this book is fiction."

Subsequent events in Weston allegedly took several turns against Jones and Oregon Detour, turns which seem to have been dominated by the Saturday Afternoon Club. Most conspicuous were those hostile moves alleged in the local narrative about Oregon Detour recorded by the student writer, namely that Jones was sued and run out of town. There seems to be no base in fact for either of those charges. No evidence of a lawsuit exists in Umatilla County courts or in the memories of more than thirty informants. Also, Jones was clearly not run out of town, since he had lived in Seattle for three years prior to the novel's publication. Further, Jones returned to Weston in June 1930, for a two-week summer vacation with his parents. According to family sources, Jones's father, Nelson Hawk Jones, would never have allowed the young novelist to return for the Pioneer Reunion if there had been any threat of violence against him. Jones also returned to Weston for Christmas that same year, and usually made an annual trip to Weston the rest of his life.

Thus it appears that those who faulted Oregon Detour attempted to honor their own opinons by literalizing the novel and defining the novelist as criminal and outcast. In fact, there was never unanimous Weston disapproval of Oregon Detour. Jones did not lose his rapport with the majority. There was no suit. There was no expulsion. Even today, Jones's novels can be found in many Weston homes and many Westonites remember him fondly — jokes, boozing, pranks, stories, and favors.

However, the allegation that the book was not kept on the shelves of Weston libraries has an apparently factual basis. Shortly after the novel was published, a student at Weston High School gave a book report to his english teacher on Oregon Detour. She immediately removed the book from the sophomore reading list and the high school library. Weston Public Library records show that the book was added to the Weston branch in 1930, but soon had to be re-ordered from the main Umatilla County Library in Pendleton. The librarian confirmed that this could only mean the book was no longer in the Weston collection. In 1935, the novel seems to have been restored to the Weston branch collection, but by 1936 Oregon Detour again had to be ordered for Weston readers from Pendleton.14 Evidently the novel was being stolen, a conclusion supported by a retired Umatilla County librarian, who stated that she was told "not to send Oregon Detour to Weston because it would never come back." In a recent newspaper report the current librarian "concedes the novel was not on the shelves when she took over in 1955…" For a multitude of possible reasons — lost, missing, burned, stolen, misplaced, banned, worn out — Oregon Detour could not regularly be found in Weston collection until 1981, when the current librarian's 20-year search for a copy of the novel ended successfully: three copies of Oregon Detour were suddenly given to the Weston Public Library.

This apparent popularity of Oregon Detour — as a book with a doubtful reputation — is matched by an equally durable outrage about the novel that appeared in various guises during this research. The angry were generally old "native" members of the Saturday Afternoon Club or directly related to them in some way. One interview, for example, contained these comments:

Why you going around trying to get the skeletons out of the closet? Looking for a nigger in the woodpile? I can't see any good in it. I'm not going to tell you anything even if you want me to. I heard you was going around doing this. Why stir people up again over something that happened fifty years ago? You should let well enough alone.15

Other members of that group refused to be interviewed. Still others feigned ignorance of the entire event and its consequences, even though they were recommended as highly informed sources. Evidently, the small segment of the community that initially felt it had been slandered by Oregon Detour still feels that their reputations have something to lose some 51 years later.

Whatever the causes of their silence, the Saturday Afternoon Club and the women of the Methodist Church have made their judgment about the novel and its controversial status a fact of community life. Only one opinion about Oregon Detour — the Saturday Afternoon Club opinion — seems to circulate in the community. Research at Weston-McEwen High School in 1982 revealed that no current students had heard of the novel or read it, and only a few of their parents had heard of the novel at all. The book was not housed in the high school collection even though the high school librarian had heard of the book herself.

Yet banned book status for Oregon Detour by the offended minority is qualified. Recently, a farmer on Weston Mountain called Nard Jones's son in Walla Walla and asked if he could still buy a copy of the novel. Also, a woman who'd spent her summers in Weston for forty years finally sought out a copy of the novel in 1982 and read it herself. Her conclusion: the book was tame. Finally, the novel is in demand. Umatilla County Library records show that, between 1937 and 1959, one of two main library copies circulated 22 times for 3 weeks each. Another Umatilla County Library copy circulated 29 times between 1966 and 1973, including three successful circulations to the Weston branch.16 Most of the individuals interviewed during this research in 1981 wanted to know where they could find a copy of the novel, or if there was one in the Weston library. There wasn't at that time; only two noncirculating copies of Oregon Detour remained in the central Umatilla County Library in Pendleton, and both were in moderate demand even though they had to be read in the library. After this research was completed in 1981, three copies of the novel became available in the Weston Library. There seems to be a continuing if not increasing readership for Oregon Detour — the local classic, which competes with that other unknown northeast Oregon classic, Beyond The Black Stump, by the Australian novelist Nevil Shute.


Why all this fear of a book? There are three factors at work here — all very concrete and powerful — which might serve to explain what happened. First, the events and characters in Oregon Detour were neither genteel nor romantic, and didn't fit with the formula romances and westerns that dominated popular reading tastes in Weston in 1930. Realistic treatment of local sexual adventures and authentic descriptions of wild, small town characters were unprecedented in Northwest fiction, which even caused the novel to be a best seller in Portland for more than two months.

Also, whatever he claimed, Nard Jones had actually changed these events and characters very little, and where he did alter events those alterations were not understood by his Weston audience. Adopting New Realism, Jones had written a contemporary pageant without the benefit of historical distance. The only place name Jones changed was Weston, which became "Creston." All other place names — Walla Walla, Pendleton, Portland — remained the same. No common landmarks in the community were renamed, local character names were only slightly altered, e.g., Clark Wood became Clark Tipp, and some local character names were not altered at all — as Jones acknowledged in It"s Only Fiction. Local traditions and events — a flash flood,17 the Pioneer Reunion,18 and high school graduation,19 — were all basically unaltered. In fact, they were hardly disguised. Where Jones needed plot material, he took it directly from community rumor, public event, or his own experience among his peers — including all sexual antics.20 Thus, suspension of disbelief was impossible for the Weston audience. While Jones's close group may have hoped to see their collective portrait in the novelist's mirror, they didn't expect to see so much of that face — the shadow.

This fracturing of genteel literary expectations by Oregon Detour extended itself to become a second cause of uproar and popularity. The community's illusions about itself had been threatened by a New Realist novel — a common event in the decade. As Donald Meinig has noted in The Great Columbia Plain, the Weston-Walla Walla area "during the first decades of this century seemed to be overshadowed by the massive influences of a crass materialism, strident boosterism, and a frantic concern to be in the forefront of 'progress'."21 Like other New Realists, Jones had stripped away Weston's white enamel of piety, progress, and propriety to show local individuals becoming the natural victims of their own ignorance, fear, violence, customs, and self-deceptions. The sons and daughters of the golden pioneers were not only masters of a beautiful landscape; they were also slaves to their inner landscape, especially their sexuality, loneliness, and insecurity.

Third, Oregon Detour also reversed community power structure and social privilege, a potent change which Jones himself might not have recognized would occur when he wrote the novel. Suddenly, an "outsider" had exposed the "natives" to the possibility of public censure. In many Northwestern towns, these two social classes are defined by the Oregon Trail experience. The ancestors of the "natives" came overland, homesteaded, founded the community, created its institutions, and commanded its wealth. According to Weston sources, the "natives" did not hold their members up to public censure. In contrast, the "newcomers" were those individuals whose families had settled in the community after 1900. More than likely, the "newcomers" bought land from one of the "natives," or carried on business, services, or other forms of labor. They would not be invited to join the Saturday Afternoon Club, but would form the Fun and Fiction Club. At the Pioneer Reunion, they would not be eligible to nominate the Pioneer Queen. When Oregon Detour appeared, the "newcomers" were not threatened, since Jones had taken his major characters largely from "native" wheat families whose lands surrounded "Creston." However, the life beyond reproach that the "natives" enjoyed had been redrawn by some newcomer who'd kept his eyes and ears open. Ironically, it is the outrage of the "natives" that has kept the novel alive in the community.


It is obvious that this microcosmic conflict and its causes are not unique. The information here invites the reminder that such conflicts are universal in literature — Flaubert, Steinbeck, Wolfe, and Malamud (after A New Life), to name a few. However, in the Northwest this is the first and oldest case of local censorship and of public furor between a novelist and members of his community — perhaps a sign that literary culture had begun to rise from those authentic sources called for by H. L. Davis and James Stevens in their 1927 Mencken-style polemic, Status Rerum.22 With the single exception of Vardis Fisher's agrarian novel, Toilers of the Hills (1928), the modern Northwest novel did not begin to appear before Oregon Detour was published. In fact, Northwest novelists whose works are still reprinted and studied today all began to publish their major books after 1930: H.L. Davis, James Stevens, Darcy McNickle, Vardis Fisher, to name a few. Thus, it may be fair to conclude that Oregon Detour was the region's first modern novel, certainly the Northwest's first exercise in "New Realism."

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