Western author subject of Women's History Month presentation

    In honor of Women’s History Month, Delaine Fragnoli, managing editor of Feather Publishing Company’s four Plumas County newspapers, will give a presentation Wednesday, March 31, on one of America’s most prolific and highly accomplished Western genre authors.  

 The luncheon presentation is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. in the Mineral Building at the county fairgrounds in Quincy. Back Door Catering is preparing the meal. Tickets are $17 and seating is limited. Stop by the Plumas County Museum or call 283-6320 for tickets. Tickets are non-refundable after March 24. The museum and the Plumas National Forest are sponsoring the event.

    Fragnoli will cover the life and work of author B.M. Bower, from her early years when, as a ranch wife with three young children, she tried to break into the genre of the Western.

    Yes, B.M was a “she.”

    Bertha Muzzy Bower, born in a log cabin in Minnesota in 1871, was one of nine surviving children. She grew up on homesteads in Minnesota and Montana before landing in California.

    By 1904, she was a published author in short story magazines, and in 1906, her first full-length novel, “Chip of the Flying U,” was published by Smith & Street. Following the pattern of two full-length books each year, and numerous short stories, Bower began publishing with the Dillingham Company and then, in 1912, landed a contract with the prestigious Little, Brown & Company for the remainder of her career.

    Although admonished to maintain her gender-neutral initials, B.M., to perpetuate the faÁade of male authorship in a field where no female dared tread, Bower became one of the foremost and most popular writers of the time, finding herself among such notables as Zane Grey, Max Brand and Rex Beach.

    Her novels, however, did not always follow the standard “Western” theme. She developed complex story lines and personalities for her subjects, ranging from fun-loving cowboys to sinister mine operators to rustlers to the almost supernatural, with bootleggers, archaeologists, forest rangers, moviemakers, airplane pilots and sheepherders, just to mention a few.

    Bower had her own tribulations in real life. Married three times and divorced twice, she moved about seeking material for her stories. In 1914, she moved to the Pocket Ranch along today’s Oakland Camp Road in Quincy, and over the next few years built up that ranch into the valley’s showplace. Here she penned at least four books, with one, “The Lookout Man,” set on Mount Hough.

    In keeping with her restless character, Bower moved on in 1918, traveling the Southwest and moving to Nevada and the mines that were developing there.     Over the span of her long career, Bower published 68 novels and hundreds of short stories. Many of her books have been reprinted and are still available for purchase today, and several of them were made into movies. She passed away in 1940, just before her last novel, “Man On Horseback,” was released.

    With their attractive dust jacket art and quality printing, Bower’s books have become very collectable, some commanding prices of $300 or more per copy. Artists who contributed to her books include Charles Russell and Anton Fischer.

    Fragnoli has published widely herself, from academic journals to national consumer magazines. She has 17 years of experience in newspaper, magazine and book publishing. She holds degrees in literature from California State University–Fullerton and The Claremont Graduate School.

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