Fox Jr., John (1863-1919) by Latham, Sean

John Fox Jr. (1863-1919) The first American to sell more than a million copies of a novel, was one of the most famous writers of the early twentieth century and one of most important contributors. His stories helped fuel magazine sales and he serialized in its pages his most popular novels, including and , both of which were top-ten bestsellers in the years surrounding their publication. These frankly sentimental tales lack the ironic and formal complexity of high modernism, but they do articulate a theme familiar to readers: the chaotic contest between an international modernity and distinct, local cultures seemingly threatened by technology and urbanization. Fox’s stories often entangle young lovers in these larger historical plots, offering romantic resolutions to these otherwise intractable cultural conflicts. Fox’s most famous novel, , deals so powerfully and directly with these familiar American themes that it not only sold broadly, but was adapted four times for the screen as a Western, by directors (in 1914), (in 1916), and (in 1936). John Fox Jr. Scribner’s The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Scribner’s The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Frank Dear Cecil B. DeMille Henry Hathaway Fox turned to writing late in life, penning his first stories in his early forties after having struggled as a teacher, newspaperman, and real estate speculator. He was born in Stony Point, Kentucky in 1863, a small town in the heart of Appalachia. Although he would later travel the world as a celebrity and even (briefly) marry the renowned opera singer , he returned continuously in his imagination to this closed and clannish world, relating stories of outsiders confused by its ways and those who left the hills to engage a larger America. Fox’s father was a local schoolteacher (a character-type that appears regularly in his fiction) and the son received an excellent education, going first to what was then called Kentucky University before eventually taking a degree from Harvard in 1883. Uncertain about his prospects, he worked as a city reporter for the and the , pursuing often gruesome stories through the city’s tenements. Fritzi Scheff New York Sun New York Times In 1890, his family moved to Big Stone Gap, Virginia and he followed them, having given up the newspaper world and found himself equally ill-suited to teaching. While working unhappily as a land agent in an office run by his brother, he began to write stories and his first piece, appeared in in 1892. He was an almost instant success and was quickly commissioned by as a war correspondent. He covered the Spanish-American War, following and his Rough Riders up San Juan Hill, while forming a close friendship with the period’s most famous war reporter, . There followed an assignment from to cover the Russo-Japanese War (1894-1895) after which he returned to Virginia and devoted himself fully to fiction. The Mountain Europa, Century Magazine Harper’s Magazine Roosevelt Richard Harding Davis Scribner’s Fox claimed that he could write well only when at home in Big Stone Gap, and his large body of work played an integral role in constructing the public imagination of Appalachia. Like , he returned endlessly to the same imaginative space, teasing from it story after story ranging from the Civil War to the rise of the coal industry. The major novels give broad contours to this world, while shorter stories pinpoint specific character types (from feuding families to wild moonshiners) now broadly associated with Kentucky and Virginia. , which ran monthly in from January to June, 1917, are typical of Fox’s work and all end with sentimental yet often melancholy evocations of the region and its inevitable transformation. Fox remains an important icon of Appalachia: his family home has been preserved as a national landmark in Virginia, and Kingdom Come State Park in Kentucky takes its name from one of his best-known novels. Caught up in the great flu epidemic, he died at his home of pneumonia in 1919. William Faulkner The Happy Valley Stories Scribner’s —Sean Latham Selected Works by John Fox Jr. . New York: Harper and Brothers, 1896. A Cumberland Vendetta and Other Stories . New York: Harper and Brothers, 1899. The Kentuckians . New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903. The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come . New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908. The Trail of the Lonesome Pine . New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913. The Heart of the Hills . New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1917. In Happy Valley Further Reading . 4.7 (January 1990). Moore, William Cabell Memories of John Fox, Jr., Friend of the Highlands. Kentucky Explorer . . Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002. York, Bill John Fox Jr., Appalachian Author

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