Rose Wilder Lane book published in 1926.
. “The critics will damn it with faint sneers, but I hope to God it will sell.” – Rose Wilder Lane to Louis Stellman, January 1926.
Something of the instinctive antagonism which the Highland Scot feels for his Lowland countryman is inherent in the character of our own native mountain men. Perhaps this antagonism is partly a survival of primitive clan spirit, but certainly it has been strengthened and developed by the different conditions under which hill men and plain men have lived their lives. This factor of environment in the evolution of human character is strikingly illustrated in the Ozark Mountain story of Rose Wilder Lane which she calls Hill-Billy.
Abimelech Baird, a hill man of the Missouri Ozarks, at the age of 20 quits his father’s cabin on Baird’s Peak and descends on the plain town of Millersville. Here he begins the practice of law, with scant learning but much native hill wisdom and no little native shrewdness. His rise in the community is sure and swift until he becomes infatuated with Bessie Miller, a “little scrap of prettiness, an’ no more.” Bessie precipitates a devastating situation which promises to be his undoing. The solution of this unhappy entanglement carries the tale to a triumphant close, which leaves this hill-billy the happy husband of a hill woman, while the weak and deceitful Bessie is awarded to Baird’s chief enemy, the devious prosecuting attorney of the town. – New York Times, June 13, 1926, page BR9.
Another New York Times review sait that Hill-Billy was about “a rugged lawyer and a deceitful woman… a novel that thunders to a crashing climax.” I am editing this post because at one time, included a pdf of my own copy of the book, but the book is still under copyright. If you’d like to come sit on my front porch and read my copy, let me know (I’ve got a porch swing and two rocking chairs; take your pick). And maybe I’ll bring you a cup of tea while you’re reading. Just know that Hill-Billy isn’t everyone’s “cup of tea.” It’s written in Ozark dialect. I always thought the “thundering crash” from the above reviewer was when he or she fell asleep while reading and the book fell to the floor…
Rose Wilder Lane first published her “Hilly-Billy” stories in Country Gentlemen magazine in 1925; the book came out a year later, to positive reviews. The main character, Abimelech Baird, is loosely based on Mansfield, Missouri attorney, Noah J. Craig.