The Voyagers, by Dale Van Every (Bantam, 1959).
Illustration by Stanley Zuckerberg.
In a newspaper column syndicated by Indiana’s Anderson Daily Bulletin on September 4, 1957, Associated Press writer Hal Boyle introduced then 61-year-old author Dale Van Every with these words:
Most writers dream of turning out a novel they can sell in Hollywood and become rich.Born on July 23, 1896, in Emmet County, Michigan—located atop that state’s Lower Peninsula—Dale Baron Van Every subsequently moved with his parents to Southern California, graduated in 1914 from a San Bernardino high school, and went on to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto. According to this short notice, published in the San Bernardino Sun back in 1922, his college education was interrupted by World War I, when he “enlisted with the Stanford ambulance unit, serving overseas for about three years, first in the ambulance corps, later as a commissioned officer in the Convois Automobils and finally closing his European sojourn with an art course at the University of Lyons” in France. With the war at an end, Van Every returned to Stanford, finally won his diploma in 1920, and took a job with the United Press newswire service in New York City. His U.P. assignments included working as a staff correspondent in Washington, D.C., covering the summer activities of President Calvin Coolidge, and serving as the bureau chief in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In April 1922 he wed Ellen Mein Calhoun. The daughter of a Seattle family, she had also matriculated from Stanford, and had for a time been the women’s editor of the Daily Palo Alto. After bringing two children into the world, the couple would divorce in 1935.
Dale Van Every, a top authority on America’s early frontier, did it the other way. He quit a $75,000-a-year job in Hollywood in 1943 to become a historical novelist.
“I was making $1,500 a week—which made me a working picture writer, not a celebrity,” he remarked drily. “My only regret is that I didn’t quit sooner.”
Van Every resigned from the U.P. sometime during the mid- to late-1920s, and co-authored (with Morris DeHaven Tracy) a biography of aviator Charles Lindbergh, which was published in 1927—the same year
|Dale Van Every, 1928|
Wikipedia says that by 1934—in the midst of the Great Depression—Van Every was being paid “a salary of $52,500 by Paramount Pictures, $250 less than Mary Pickford and $1,000 more than Walt Disney.” That was income enough to keep him living in high style and make sure his name appeared on party guest lists; but it was apparently insufficient to win from him a lifelong commitment to screenwriting. Van Every remained in the biz till 1957, but by that time he had begun penning novels again. Long fascinated by American history (one of his grandfathers was allegedly a Tory combatant during the Revolutionary War), and after employing some of his Hollywood proceeds to amass an extensive library of resource volumes, Van Every put his name to a string of yarns about America’s 18th-century frontier, ranging from The Shining Mountains (1948) and Bridal Journey (1950), to The Captive Witch (1951), The Trembling Earth (1952), and The Scarlet Feather (1959). On top of those, between 1961 and 1964 he sent to bookstores a four-part non-fiction series called “The Frontier People of America.”
“I use fiction only as a kind of sugar-coating for the facts,” Van Every told the AP’s Boyle. “It is the facts that interest me. My pleasure in writing is the delight in re-creating a lost world—the period between 1780 and 1811, when America really became a nation.”
The Voyagers, which was published originally by Henry Holt & Company in 1957, fit squarely within those historical parameters, being set in the Ohio River valley in 1788. Kirkus Reviews called the novel “another tale of derring-do against the background of the American frontier,” and went on to note:
The story begins and ends in Traners Landing, below Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania]. And the central figure is Abel Traner, the only responsible one of the family, who breaks away from responsibility to shift for himself on the river he knows and loves. His adventures included some brushes with Wilkinson, of the grandiose schemes; [as well as] some give and take—mostly take—in acquisition of riches beyond his dreaming, and their equally undreamed-of loss. Of women, [the story’s cast ranges from] the exquisite Madame Baynton, for whom he ultimately paid the price of his own freedom, to the undependable Magda, to Hagar, who won her man, and back to Eather, at home, grown up and ready to give him the security he’d learned to want. Good period adventure.The rear side of the 1959 Bantam edition of The Voyagers (shown on the right) quotes Virginia’s Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper as promising that among this tale’s attributes are “river pirates, spies, Indian massacres, murders, thefts, chicanery, rapes, last-minute rescues, beautiful and amorous women.” It adds, “The Voyagers has everything.” While I’m not sure many copies of Van Every’s book were sold on the basis of it incorporating “rapes,” I can understand the draw of those other plot turns.
The cover of that Bantam paperback, too, was a significant attraction. As displayed atop this post, it shows a man with what appears to be a flintlock rifle, pulling a nude and curvaceous young woman into a small boat. Or maybe he’s just protecting her from the party of canoe-borne Native Americans firing arrows in their general direction; it’s hard to be sure. What I do know is that this quite striking painting was done by Stanley Zuckerberg, an artist born in Long Beach, New York, circa 1920. According to a boilerplate biography found several places on the Web (for example, here), Zuckerberg “began to draw at age 6. He received an Art Scholarship to [the] Pratt Institute of Fine Arts beginning [in] 1939. He also studied at the Art Students League with Khosrov Ajootian, William Gorham, Thomas Benrimo, and Alexander Kostellow. … Some of the authors whose books he illustrated were John Dos Passos, Somerset Maugham, Sinclair Lewis, James Michener, Vladimir Nabokov, Irving Stone, and Norman Mailer.” This Web site adds that Zuckerberg was “among the most accomplished of the [mid-20th-century] James Avati-influenced cover artists who strove for an emotional-realistic style.”
I’ve featured Zuckerberg’s work in several Killer Covers galleries over the years, and focused on one excellent example—the 1957 front from Robert Wilder’s Flamingo Road—four months ago. However, this artist deserves greater attention. So I am embedding, below, 30 book façades credited to him. They include the 1961 movie tie-in edition of Wirt Williams’ Ada Dallas; the 1953 Signet release of Mailer’s Barbary Shore; the 1962 Crest version of Charles Gorham’s controversial McCaffery; the ever-captivating 1957 edition of Jonathan Craig’s The Case of the Body Beautiful; the 1963 Gold Medal issue of Message from Marise, by “Paul Kruger,” aka Roberta Elizabeth Sebenthal; and Zuckerberg’s 1958 front for Silver Spoon, by Edwin Gilbert.
Click on any of these images for an enlargement.
From what I can tell, Zuckerberg’s single contribution to Dale Van Every’s oeuvre was that illustration he did for The Voyagers. Yet that 1957 romantic adventure wasn’t Van Every’s final offering. He went on to compose works of both fiction and non-fiction, such as Our Country Then (1958), Disinherited: The Lost Birthright of the American Indian (1965), and The Day the Sun Died (1971). According to this bookstore Web site, he married at least twice more during his life, and left behind a daughter, Joan Van Every Frost, who made her own mark on the world as a novelist before passing away in 2012.
Dale Van Every, himself, died on May 28, 1976, in Santa Barbara, California. He was just short of 79 years old. Given how hard he had labored during his later years to re-establish himself as a novelist, rather than as a screenwriter—someone whose imaginative explorations of the old American frontier set the stage for later authors on the order of Douglas C. Jones and Allan W. Eckert—it was a bit sad that obituaries tended to focus on his Hollywood years.