Book Review: Ross Calvin by Ron Hamm
Ron Hamm will participate in a discussion with Stephen Fox at the Southwest Festival of the Written Word on Friday, September 29, 2017 at 2:00pm at the Silver City Public Library. The two distinguished historians will discuss the art of writing biography. Their conversation will include the challenges of research, what to include and what to omit, and how to bring to life characters from the distant past.
Sharman Apt Russell reviewed Hamm’s history Ross Calvin: Interpreter of the American Southwest:
Ron Hamm has created a wonderful portrait of a writer’s life and of the writing life. His Ross Calvin: Interpreter of the American Southwest includes intimate and (for this reader) new details about Calvin’s personality and family relationships, thoughtful and intelligent analysis of Calvin’s books, and an exploration of Calvin’s legacy. Particularly interesting and original are the comments made by authors and scholars, as well as environmental activists, living in the Silver City area today—where Calvin lived for fifteen years and the locale of his River of the Sun—which illumine how a book’s influence can ripple down through decades. This connection to present readers was an impressive reminder of the length and depth of our cultural conversations.
I came to Silver City in 1981 and have lived in the Gila watershed since then. Both Calvin’s River of the Sun (1946) and Sky Determines (1934) were important sources of information and inspiration, books that helped me root further into place. Calvin’s understanding of how much climate—sun and weather and sky—influences a landscape and thus influences a people and thus influences a history was compelling. His skill at weaving together science and natural history and human history and reflection likely influenced me, too, in my own writing.
Hamm has done readers of Southwestern literature a real service by bringing together the details of Calvin’s literary and actual life into a compact and engaging book.
Ron Hamm began writing biography with obituaries (the genre in brief) as a copy boy on his Indiana home town newspaper. Since he believes one learns to write biography by reading it his bookshelves are packed with biographies, among them favorites Doris Kearns Godwin and David McCullough. Following the Marine Corps, Hamm’s United Press/Associated Press career allowed him to write profiles of major news figures. That segued into public relations followed by teaching and finally writing biographies on New Mexicans. Hamm’s latest work on Ross Calvin was a Finalist for the 2016 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards.