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Wayne Swanson (1942–) Biography

Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights

Born 1942, in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Education: University of Alberta, B.Ed., 1964; Carleton College, M.A., 1970; University of Victoria, M.B.A., 1994.


Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, land-use planner, 1970–74; Ministry of Forests for Province of British Columbia, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, resource consultant, 1974–84; restaurant owner-manager in Victoria, 1984–87; resource-management consultant, 1987–94; freelance writer. Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Victoria Chapter, president, 1995–2000, regional director of Victoria Island Region, 2001–03. Swanson's highly illustrated Why the West Was Wild includes numerous period images, such as the painting The Call of the Law, by artist Charles M. Russell.Young Readers' Choice Awards Society of British Columbia, founder and president, 1996–2000.

Honors Awards

Breath of Life Award, Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 2000.


Why the West Was Wild, Annick Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.

Work in Progress

Two young-adult novels, one an historical novel about a cattle drive and the other a contemporary novel about serious illness in the family.


In Why the West Was Wild Canadian-born writer Wayne Swanson creates what Booklist contributor Ed Sullivan dubbed an "appealing, abundantly illustrated" introduction to the history of western America that ranges from the California gold rush of the late 1840s through the nostalgic Wild West shows that traveled the continent at the end of the nineteenth century. Including period photographs and the art of George Catlin, Charles M. Russell, and Frederic Remington, Swanson also presents biographies of iconic figures such as Buffalo Bill, Jesse James, and Kit Carson.

Although a Kirkus Reviews critic commented that the book presents "the Myth of the Wild West at its most romanticized" and distills the history into a mix of brave pioneers, barroom floozies, black-hatted desperados, and bloodthirsty Indians, School Library Journal contributor Jerry D. Flack described Why the West Was Wild as "an attractive starting point for students studying this colorful era." Wendy Hogan noted in a review for Resource Links that Swanson "vividly brings back the romance, adventure and dreams of … the heroes who fought to run the bandits and bank robbers out of town."

Swanson told SATA: "A casual conversation can change your life. A friend and I were discussing my visit to the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles. We reminisced about how Western stories loomed large in our formative years but rarely grab the attention of today's youth. Still, we agreed that the excitement of the old West could enthrall kids if they had something to pique readers' interest.

"My friend suggested I propose a book to arouse curiosity about the old West—to bring to life some of the colorful characters who became legends. She knew that my writing experience consisted of publishing personal essays in periodicals, producing public information brochures and professional reports, and writing a novel (unpublished). More importantly, she knew that I grew up in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, close to the infamous Fort Whoop-Up, site of the last Indian battle, and near the heart of Alberta's ranching country. Western blood coursed through my veins. As they say, the rest is history.

"Interest in this bit of Americana extends well beyond the borders of the United States. On a global scale, the book portrays one of the largest movements of people anywhere, one of the greatest land development eras, and one of the most lawless times. Certainly there are many parallels with Canadian history, such as the gold rushes and railway buildings."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, August, 2004, Ed Sullivan, review of Why the West Was Wild, p. 1928.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2004, review of Why the West Was Wild, p. 542.

Resource Links, June, 2004, Wendy Hogan, review of Why the West Was Wild, p. 31.

School Library Journal, June, 2004, Jerry D. Flack, review of Why the West Was Wild, p. 176.

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