Jack Schaefer, Western novelist best known for his 1949 classic "Shane" which was made into a movie starring Alan Ladd, has died. He was 83.
Schaefer died Thursday in St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, N.M., of heart failure.
When he wrote "Shane," his first novel, Schaefer had never been west of his native Cleveland. He researched the book by reading old newspapers and diaries at Yale University.
The book won him the Golden Spur award granted by the Western Writers of America in 1985 as the all-time best Western novel ever written. It also earned the group's Levi-Strauss Saddleman Award in 1986.
"The fight scenes in 'Shane' are what Western fight scenes are supposed to be--everything they are supposed to be," wrote Times book editor Jack Miles in explaining how the epic became the prototype of the Western genre.
"The dialogue--on the farm where the mysterious Shane has been taken in--is the perfection of Western innocence," Miles continued. "Shane himself, the classic within this classic, is--true to the convention--a man without the polite past of church, school and property; without a family; without even a family name."
"What makes 'Shane' different, what makes it a classic among Westerns," Miles wrote, "is that it is a story told by a boy. Schaefer understood . . . that the Western is an American boy's dream of the world as it should be."
The profits from the book and movie enabled Schaefer to move in 1954 to a ranch near Cerrillos, 20 miles southwest of Santa Fe. It was there he wrote his dozens of other Western novels.
His two favorites were "Monte Walsh," a story published in 1963 about a boy who grew up to be a cowboy, and "The Canyon" published in 1953 about a Cheyenne Indian boy.
Other books, collections of short stories as well as novels, included "First Blood," "The Big Range," "Old Ramon," "The Plainsmen," "Some Goodmen of the Old West," "Mavericks" and "Conversations With a Pocket Gopher and Other Outspoken Neighbors."
The son of a Cleveland lawyer, Schaefer graduated from Oberlin College and did graduate study at Columbia University. He married twice and had three sons and one daughter.