Thursday, December 11, 2014

Glenn Balch: Writer of Horse and Dog Stories for Young Readers [otd 12/11]

Writer Glenn Balch was born on December 11, 1902 in a tiny Texas town that’s now near the southern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Young Balch grew up among animals and the countryside. He later wrote, “I was born with a love for horses, dogs, and the outdoors which I have never outgrown.”
Balch Signing a Book.
Boise State University archives.

An equal love of reading led Glenn on a path to college, and he graduated from Baylor University in 1924. The following year, he found a job with the U. S. Forest Service, working out of Garden Valley, Idaho. One summer fire season traipsing through the wilderness apparently sparked Glenn love of the Idaho outdoors, but also drove him to seek other work.

Balch wanted to write, and became a roving reporter in southern Idaho for Boise’s Idaho Statesman. On the side, he produced articles for various outdoor magazines. After fives years of that, he moved back to Boise to spend more time on his own writing, supported by a nighttime editing job at the Statesman.

But the urge to write his own material proved too much and, in the Spring of 1931, Balch committed himself to a freelance career. Glenn experienced the usual rocky start, and had to intersperse commercial work (advertising copy and publicity blurbs) with his articles and stories.

Still, the lean stretch proved relatively short: In the fall of 1932, the popular American Boy magazine published what proved to be the first of over a dozen stories about the adventures of a collie dog in Idaho’s Salmon River area. The magazine also provided an outlet for his other material, including longer serialized stories. Along with that, he slowly developed a following for his nonfiction in Field & Stream magazine.

By 1937, Balch felt financially secure enough to travel to New York City to enroll in a writing class at Columbia University. While there, he also acquired a publisher, the Thomas Y. Crowell Company. They released his first book, Riders of the Rio Grande, that same year.

A year later, the company published his second novel, Tiger Roan. Editorial advice led to that story being “tweaked” to appeal more to the twelve to fifteen year old age group. The book, first serialized in Boys’ Life magazine, proved very popular and launched Balch’s career as a writer of novels for younger readers. Although he published other material – nonfiction as well as fiction – he had the most success with that audience. (He ultimately had over thirty novels published.)

Besides his writing, Balch acted as an aide to Idaho Governor Clarence Bottolfsen for a time, and later as a Senatorial aide in Washington, D. C.

During World War II, Glenn served in the Army as a public relations officer and film producer. His second wife chaired the Idaho State Library Association and served on the State Library Board (Idaho State Journal, Pocatello, March 29, 1956). (Balch and his first wife divorced while he worked as a roving reporter.)

In 1965, Balch’s novel Indian Paint was made into a movie starring Jay Silverheels and Johnny Crawford. Silverheels, of course, was a former stunt man who became most famous as sidekick to The Lone Ranger in the original 1950s TV series. Crawford was one of the original Walt Disney Mouseketeers, and known for his role as Chuck Connors’ son in The Rifleman TV series (1958).

When the movie debuted in the Boise Valley, theaters offered free autographed photos of the stars and touted the “original story by Idaho’s own Western author – Glenn Balch” (Idaho Free Press, Nampa, September 21, 1965).

Balch’s final book publication came in 1976. He continued a public speaking career until his death in September 1989. For a longer biography of Balch, plus lists of his published novels and other writing, visit the Glenn Balch Papers, held at Boise State University. 
                                                                                 
Reference:  “Movie: Indian Paint,” Internet Movie Database, imdb.com.
Elizabeth M. Smith, History of the Boise National Forest: 1905-1976, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (1983). 
Alan Virta, “Glenn Balch: A Biographical Sketch,” Glenn Balch Papers, Albertsons Library, Boise State University (2002-2003).

No comments:

Post a Comment