Discovering a New (Old) Author

Patricia Grady Cox


Mari Sandoz

I recently discovered a new author, at least new to me. Mari Sandoz, born in Nebraska in 1896, writes about that part of the country: Native American history, biographies, short stories, and novels. In 1964 she received a Saddleman’s Award and a Western Writers of America Spur Award for juvenile fiction for her novel The Story Catcher.

Slogum House, her first novel (definitely not for juveniles), is the dark and violent story of a family of homesteaders in the sand hills of Nebraska. To call this family dysfunctional is such an understatement it’s laughable. Matriarch Gulla Slogum, a sullen, conniving, and ugly woman is driven by hurt pride and a need to dominate everyone and everything around her, no matter the cost.

If you remember Margo Martindale playing Mags in the television series Justified, you have some idea of Gulla Slogum, who oversees a family of thieves, murderers, and prostitutes. But Gulla is even more evil than Mags, and she lives a lot longer.


Birthplace of Mari Sandoval, 1896, Nebraska

Published in 1937, the language and writing style is what you might expect from that time period – point-of-view switches from third person to omniscient, a page of history dropped in here and there, lots of description. In this case, all of that works perfectly. The sand hills of Nebraska, truly a character in the book, are beautifully described at every turn.

Everyone in this dark and violent book is tragic, only the degree of tragedy varies. A subtle love story intertwined throughout offers a little relief but the participants never get together, though both characters are admirable. I loved this book.


Maria Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center at Chadron State College

If you’re not planning a trip to Chadron, Nebraska, you can learn more about Mari Sandoz on her page with the Nebraska Education Location where you can even find a 1961 interview. Mari Sandoz died in 1966 in New York City, and was taken home for burial in the family farm, south of Gordon, Nebraska, in the sand hills.

Do you have a favorite author from the early 20th century? Who is it and what do you like about their writing?

To learn more about Patricia Grady Cox, visit her webpage. Thank you.



  1. Mac Ryder.. · · Reply

    Very cool


  2. Enjoyed this post! I have only read one of Mari Sandoz’s books. It was “Miss Morissa:Doctor of the Gold Trail” and had gotten the book from my Dad when I was a teenager…Finally got around to reading in when I was over 50…really enjoyed it and wished I had read it earlier! Have meant to check out more of her writing and maybe your post will be the nudge I need.
    Also I became a fan of Margo Martindale after seeing her in the Justified role.
    Betty McCreary


    1. Hi Betty! I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I think I will be getting more of her books to read. And, yes, Margo Martindale is amazing!


  3. Growing up in Nebraska, I of course read Old Jules, but didn’t followup with any of her other works. You make me want to add Slogum House. Thanks for the reminder.


    1. LaDonna – I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I may read Old Jules one of these days. She got into a lot of trouble at the time for portraying the settlers so negatively (but honestly).


  4. Eric Holler · · Reply

    Reminds me of where my lovely ex is from in Nebraska, LOL. I’ve actually been through Chadron. Glad to see you’re doing well and keeping productive – nice job.


    1. Thanks, Eric. I’ve been through a tiny corner of Nebraska on my way to South Dakota but now I’d like to spend some time there, visit those Sand Hills since I’m reading a second novel about the same area. Hope the family in that book didn’t remind you of anybody you know! heh heh


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