The Imprint of Alan Swallow: Quality Publishing in the West

Material Information

The Imprint of Alan Swallow: Quality Publishing in the West
Series Title:
The Imprint of Alan Swallow: Quality Publishing in the West
Noel, Thomas J.
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
Publication Date:

Record Information

Source Institution:
Auraria Library
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


This item is only available as the following downloads:

Full Text


The Imprint of Alan Swallow: Quality Publishing in the West | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 12:32:24 PM] Home The Imprint of Alan Swallow: Quality Publishing in the WestThe Imprint of Alan Swallow: Quality Publishing in the WestSubmitted by jainlayconley on 12-20-2010 07:20 PMAuthor: Dale W. Nelson Publishing: Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2010. Black and white photos, bibliography, index, endnotes. xi + 208 pages. 6 x 8. $17.95 hardcover. Reviewer: Thomas J. Noel Reviewer Affiliation: University of Colorado Denver Publishing Colorado History: A Review Essay Inspired by Alan Swallow Sandra Dallas is now a nationally known Colorado author who hit the New York Times bestseller list in 2010. She is also one of many to have had her first book published by Colorados little-known literary lion, Alan Swallow. W. Dale Nelson, a forty-year reporter for the Associated Press and author of books on the presidency, brings Swallow to life in this highly readable, lively book. Nelson deals with Swallows virtues and shortcomings, such as his taste for fast cars and fast women, as well as his business failings. This is a balanced account of a very important character. This reviewer would have liked a list of Swallows various publishing firms and of the four hundred or so works he published. More detail would also be welcome on Swallows connection with the Library of Congress, the Ford Foundation, and his membership in the American Civil Liberties Union where he urged abolition of the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee and, going further, the Central Intelligence Agency. For a century Colorado authors had no significant local publisher to pursue. The neighboring states of Oklahoma, Nebraska, and New Mexico took much more pride in local literature and funded robust university presses. The University Press of Colorado (UPC), not established until 1965, was relatively anemic until brought under the leadership of Luther Wilson and its current head, Darrell Pratt. Since 2005 UPC has focused on publishing or reprinting select Colorado classics in its Timberline Series. The University of Denver Press, which Swallow spearheaded, was sadly short-lived. In times past, Colorado authors had little choice but to try out-of-state publishers and often complained that big eastern publishers gave western writers the cold shoulder. Go to New York, hire a pricey agent, or forget it. Local authors could, and often did, pay a local printer to publish a book and then try to market it themselves. Through that process Hirschfeld, Robinson, Smith-Brooks, and other job printers brought many local authors into print. But those authors dealt with the stigma of having stooped to a vanity press. For local fiction and nonfiction authors, that discouraging situation changed in 1945 when Alan Swallow moved to town. Born in 1915 and raised on a farm in rural Wyoming near the town of Powell, Swallow developed a passion for poetry and literature. He pursued this obsession at the University of Wyoming and then at Louisiana State University where he worked with a leading literary light, Robert Penn Warren, a EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanWhile on the Dominguez-Escalante expedition in 1776, Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco drew the first map of Colorado.


The Imprint of Alan Swallow: Quality Publishing in the West | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 12:32:24 PM] champion of southern regional writing and the only person ever to win the Pulitzer Prize in both fiction and poetry. Swallow found work teaching literature at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, in 1943 as an associate professor of English, journalism, and debate before moving on in 1945 to the University of Denver. At DU, Swallow helped set up one of the countrys first degree-granting creative writing programs and the University of Denver Press. After the university press foundered, Alan created the Swallow Press which he ran out of his home at 2679 South York Street. Somehow, Swallow also found time to edit various literary and poetry journals, mostly short-lived and now forgotten. More than anyone else, Swallow helped local and regional authors publish their work. Under various imprints, including Big Mountain Press, Swallow Press, Sage Books, and the University of Denver Press, he published more than four hundred works. This included the works of authors such as Sandra Dallas, Vardis Fisher, Virginia Simmons McConnell, Anas Nin, Allen Tate, Frank Waters, and Yvor Winters. Although Swallows first love was poetry and fiction, Colorado history authors, buffs, and teachers owe him a large debt. He published such valuable works as Louisa Ward Arpss Denver in Slices (which Channel 6 also ran as one of its first and now sadly reduced local history programs). Muriel Sibell Wolles Stampede to Timberline is the first and still one of the best of the Colorado ghost town guides/histories. Wolle, who headed the fine arts department at CU Boulder, illustrated her still-in-print classic with her own fine paintings. These watercolors and drawings, done from the 1920s to the 1970s, are now one of the best visual records extant of Colorado mines and mining towns. Among Swallows many minor local classics were Wilson Rockwells The Utes: A Forgotten People Marshall Spragues Newport in the Rockies: The Life and Good Times of Colorado Springs, Virginia McConnell Simmonss, Bayou Salado: The Story of South Park, and Sandra Dallass Gaslights and Gingerbread: Colorados Historic Homes. Publishing was moonlighting for Swallow, who wrote and published books of his own poetry and was a fulltime teacher. He cherished teaching on various faculties, including the University of New Mexico and the University of CaliforniaBerkeley. Although he could have gone other places, Swallow committed himself to Denver where he built his publishing empire. A gifted teacher, he helped many of his students and guided their poetry, fiction, and nonfiction into print. Much of what Swallow published is deservedly forgotten. He built a three-car garage to store all the unsold books. Yet he made a point of keeping book prices low by doing much of the work himself and never hiring marketing staff. He had the inevitable battles with authors over editing, marketing, and mostly over finances, which was not his strong suit. Yet some authors he first brought into print, such as Dallas, Sprague, Tate, Rockwell, Simmons, Waters, and Wolle, produced important books. Many then went on to larger, better known publishers than the biggest little publisher in the West. On Thanksgiving Day, 1966, his wife Mae found Alan Swallow slumped over his basement desk in their York Street home, dead of a heart attack at age fifty-one. Swallow Press was sold to a Chicago firm and then to Ohio University Press in Athens, Ohio, which continues to keep some of the Swallow Press books in print under that imprint. Colorado readers and writers have not been blessed with another Alan Swallow. Some have tried to carry on the work, notably Tom and Marilyn Auer of the Bloomsbury Review, which reviews and celebrates even the more obscure local authors.


The Imprint of Alan Swallow: Quality Publishing in the West | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 12:32:24 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us One of Alan Swallows friends and one-time publishing partners, Raymond Johnson, helped produce Swallow Books from 1948 until the 1960s. His Johnson Publishing Company created Johnson Books in 1979 and became a major producer of Colorado nonfiction. In 2005 Johnson was bought by Wisconsin-based Big Earth Publishing, which also swallowed John Fielders Westcliffe Publishing in 2007. Started in Englewood in 1979, Westcliffe specialized in color photography in its books, guidebooks, calendars, and other products. Although owned by Big Earth, both Johnson Books and Westcliffe continue to publish under their own names. Bob Baron founded Fulcrum Publishing in 1984 and claims to now be the states largest publisher, producing around twenty-five books a year, including many on the Highest State. In two decades under publications director David N. Wetzel, the Colorado Historical Society became a publishing powerhouse. The historical societys exhibition and programming arm, recently branded History Colorado, published two journals simultaneouslythe popular, glossy, color-illustrated Colorado Heritage and the scholarly, welldocumented series Essays and Monographs in Colorado History and its successor, Colorado History not to mention a monthly newsletter and occasional books. Swallows interest in local publishing has also been perpetuated by the Pruett Publishing Company in Boulder. Founded in 1954 by Fred Pruett, a former professor of journalism at the University of Colorado, Pruett has published much local history, including many railroading books. In 1982 Jim Pruett, Freds oldest son, came to work for the company and now heads it. Colorado outdoor recreation, travel, and history comprise the bulk of the companys business. Paul David and Janelynn Smith founded Western Reflections Publishing in Ouray in 1996 as a part of their Buckskin Trader Book and Curio Shop. Western Reflections Publishing specializes in books on Colorado history, printing about 4 new books and 4 reprints each year. They have published 140 books on Colorado, including 16 reprints of special Colorado out-of print history books, and publish about 7 titles a year. Filter Press, started in 1957 by Gilbert Campbell, was purchased in 1996 by Doris and Tom Baker. They now publish about 5 books a year. The Filter Press backlist of about 55 books includes many on Colorado and mostly biographies, including a series for younger readers. Alan Swallow, the first major local publisher, would probably be happy to see such proliferation of the work he began in his basement. Reviewer Info: Thomas J. Noel has published forty books, mostly with local firms. A professor of history and director of public history and preservation at the University of Colorado Denver, he also co-directs the Center for Colorado and the West at the Auraria Library. Add new comment