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Dr. Milner and Dr. O'Connor to offer presentation, hold book signing for critically acclaimed biography

Nov. 25, 2008 -- For Arkansas State University history professors Dr. Clyde A. Milner II and Dr. Carol A. O'Connor, writing a book has been a 12-year-long adventure. Dr. Milner and Dr. O'Connor have recently traveled to Utah and to Montana, giving public presentations on "As Big As the West: The Pioneer Life of Granville Stuart," their critically acclaimed biography from Oxford University Press. Drs. Milner and O'Connor will also give a public presentation on their new book, along with a book signing, on Thursday Dec. 11, at 3:30-5 p.m. in the exhibit area on the third floor of ASU's Dean B. Ellis Library, 108 Cooley Drive, Jonesboro. Refreshments will be provided, and the public is welcome.

Dr. Milner and Dr. O'Connor are co-editors of The Oxford History of  the American West. For eighteen years--from 1984 to 2002--Clyde Milner edited the Western Historical Quarterly, a scholarly journal whose mission is to promote the study of the North American West in its varied aspects and broadest sense. The journal is based at Utah State University, where Milner and O'Connor taught for 25 years. The couple are both graduates of Yale University, Milner with a PhD in American Studies and O'Connor with a PhD in History.

Milner and O'Connor have both been designated Distinguished Lecturers by the Organization of American Historians, and are two of the four people so recognized in the state of Arkansas. Milner is the director of the Heritage Studies Ph.D. Program at ASU, and O'Connor is associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Milner and O'Connor have been married for 31 years, and they have two children, a daughter, Catherine, presently in her first year of medical school in Tulsa, Okla., and a son, Charlie, a senior majoring in physics at Yale University.

Their book, described by Oxford University Press as "A fast-paced narrative biography of one of the Frontier West's most complex figures," is the biography of Granville Stuart (1834-1918), a man whose life mirrored the story of his time. A quintessential Western figure in the mold of Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill, or Sitting Bull, his adventures recall the conflicts and the contradictions in the story of America's westward expansion.

"As Big as the West" has garnered glowing reviews, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly, the leading international magazine of book publishing and bookselling. According to Publishers Weekly, "Milner and O'Connor, two leading historians of the American West, deliver an outstanding history of Granville Stuart (1834-1918), a Gold Rush miner, Montana cattle baron and hanging-hungry vigilante as well as a master of languages, a U.S. ambassador to Paraguay and Uruguay, and the author of an intriguing autobiography, "Forty Years on the Frontier." Stuart's various successes were based not only on hard work, but on the unbridled exploitation of resources and native peoples, particularly the Shoshone. Although he learned the Shoshone language and married a Shoshone woman, Stuart disavowed their 11 children after 26 years, at the time of his second marriage to a white woman. Stuart spent his final days in reduced circumstances, the one resource he had left to peddle being his romanticized memories of the early West. He left behind a room full of diaries-material that Milner and O'Connor, a husband-and-wife team and both history professors at Arkansas State, put to superb use as they probe the complexities of this archetypal Western settler."

Milner and O'Connor's biography details Stuart's remarkable life. Born in Virginia, he grew up in agricultural Iowa, and he spent time in the mining camps of California during the Gold Rush before settling in Montana. He was a cattleman who fought bandits and horse thieves, even leading a vigilante force, "Stuart's Stranglers," responsible for several hangings in 1884. His personal life was no less colorful; he married a Shoshone woman, with whom he had eleven children, later abandoned after his second marriage to a white woman. His public life included serving as the head of the Butte Public Library and serving as U.S. Minister to Paraguay and Uruguay. Stuart was also the author of the dramatic memoir, "Forty Years on the Frontier," still read today.

Milner and O'Connor bring their awareness of current issues in Western history to their material, along with a wealth of rich detail and a great deal of narrative flair, to illuminate the fascinating and complex life of the archetypal frontiersman, a life as big as the West.

In co-authoring this book, Milner and O'Connor say, "It has been a long and fascinating trail for us to follow. For more than twelve years, we have been researching and writing about Granville Stuart, including nine months in 2006-07 as visiting scholars with a generous fellowship at Yale University. Writing a book together may not be the wisest activity for sustaining a marriage, but we have found ourselves enjoying the challenges of examining one man's life from two people's perspectives. We do wonder if Granville Stuart could have appreciated such attention in stereo."

The couple will have a book signing on Thursday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. at Mary Gay Shipley's That Bookstore in Blytheville, 316 W. Main, Blytheville, Ark. Additional presentations and book signings are scheduled for Monday, Jan. 12, 2009, 6 p.m., in the Central Arkansas Library System's Darragh Center Auditorium, 100 Rock Street, Little Rock, Ark.; for Thursday, Feb. 26, at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas; and in late March in Denver, Colo., and Seattle, Wa.

For more information on the ASU book signing, contact Dr. Gregory Hansen, at (870) 972-3508, or via e-mail at



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