The writer best known for his popular historical novels of the Old West such as “Mountain Man” which was adapted for Sydney Pollack’s 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson, was born today in 1895. Now WE know em


Vardis Alvero Fisher was born March 31, 1895 in Annis, Idaho.

He married childhood girlfriend Leona McMurtrey in 1917 and then enlisted in the army in 1918.

After graduating from the University of Utah in 1920, Fisher went on to earn a Masters degree in 1922.

Fisher had difficulties in his marriage and became involved with another graduate student Margaret Trusler. His wife Leona committed suicide on September 8, 1924.

He went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1925.

Fisher became a professor of English at the University of Utah, then in 1928 he married Margaret Trusler, and moved to New York University where they had two sons.

He lost his job during the Great Depression, as did most academic professors.

In 1931, according to many, Fisher published his earliest and best of his 38 novels “Dark Bridwell.”


Between 1935 and 1939, Fisher worked as the director of the Idaho’s Writer’s Project as part of President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Fisher again divorced in 1937, at Margaret’s insistence.

His historical novel, Children of God, tracing the history of the Mormons, won the 1939 Harper Prize in Fiction.

He then married for a third time, Opal Laurel Holmes in 1940.

In 1943, Fisher wrote The Mothers: An American Saga of Courage which was about the Donner Party tragedy.

Fisher then decided to write his twelve-volume book series “Testament of Man” in 1943. He spent the next seventeen years reading more than 2,000 books on anthropology, history, psychology, theology and comparative religion. His series explored a pantheon of subjects such as myth, ritual, language, family, sex, and especially sin, guilt, and religion.

In 1953, his non-fiction book on how to write “God or Caesar?: The writing of fiction for beginners” was published.

In 1958 Fisher’s novel recounting the Lewis and Clarke Expedition, “Tale of Valor” was published.


His 1965 novel “Mountain Man” went on to be adapted for Sydney Pollack’s 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson.


Vardis Fisher died July 9, 1968, at the age of 73, in Hagerman, Idaho.

 Now WE know em





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