Novelist Thomas Savage (1915–2003) grew up in the lonely world of the northern Rockies during the twentieth century’s first half and in eight of his thirteen novels continually re‑inhabited it as a scene of gender protest. He left Montana, his native state, at twenty‑two, only periodically visiting after that and returning only once after the 1960s. His daughter said he “hated Montana” and wanted to get as physically far away from it as possible, but that’s not the whole story. In those eight novels Savage critiques the limited roles available to men and women in the high landscapes between his hometown of Dillon, Montana, and Salmon, Idaho. His novels continually portray an atrophied masculinity, in which same‑sex desire tends to be masked by homophobia. His strong female characters also suggest his deliberate blurring of conventional gender stereotypes. The novels set in Savage country reveal an author struggling with his own complex sexuality. This unpopulated sequence of valleys and passes, which straddles the Continental Divide, becomes his own queer country: an open space of same‑sex desire muted by gender conformity. The high dry landscapes become a liminal site of potentially reconfigured identity even as that potential is denied.
Any reference to or quotation from this article should be cited as follows: Weltzien, O. Alan. “Thomas Savage’s Queer Country.” Western Writers Online February 2015. 4 pp. http://scholarworks.boisestate.edu/wwo/1/. Accessed [your date of access].