The Short Biography Of Wayne D. Overholser
THE EARLY YEARS
Wayne D. Overholser was born September 4, 1906 in Pomeroy, Washington. As a child he 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."
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."
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.
FULL-TIME TEACHING, PART-TIME WRITING
Wayne began writing for Western pulp magazines in 1936 and published his first Western novel in 1947. 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 stuck a check under my nose for $13.50, with a note from my agent that said, 'You are now an author.'"
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. He recalled being "looked down on, particularly by the English teachers, because pulp writing was not considered a very big thing."
MOVE TO COLORADO
Wayne moved his wife, Evaleth, and two small sons, John and Steve (Dan came later), to the town of Montrose, later buying a home in Boulder, where a group of writers lived. The move from Oregon to Colorado was an important one for the Overholsers, although risky at best. "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." However, it was there his career as a novelist was established.
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. Wayne 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. He won three Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America for the best western novel of the year. In 1989 he won the Saddleman Award, a lifetime achievement award for a life of contribution to western writing.
Wayne's writing career 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 died August 27, 1996 in Boulder, Colorado.