Authors: Phil Stong

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

State Fair, 1932

Stranger’s Return, 1933

Village Tale, 1934

Week-end, 1935

Farmer in the Dell, 1935

Buckskin Breeches, 1937

The Long Lane, 1939

The Iron Mountain, 1942

Our Destiny, 1942

Jessamy John, 1947

Return in August, 1953

Nonfiction:

Horses and Americans, 1939

Hawkeyes, 1940

If School Keeps, 1940 (autobiography)

Marta of Muscovy, 1947

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

The Hired Man’s Elephant, 1939

Biography

Following graduation from the public schools of Keosauqua, Iowa, where he was born in 1899, Philip Duffield Stong went to Drake University, from which he graduated in 1919. After some graduate study at Columbia University (1920-1921) and at the University of Kansas (1923-1924), Stong wrote editorials for the Des Moines Register and later taught courses in journalism and speech at Drake University. In 1925 he went to New York City, working successively for the Associated Press, the North American Newspaper Alliance, Liberty, Editor and Publisher, and the New York World. In 1931 he began to devote all his time to creative writing.{$I[AN]9810000053}{$I[A]Stong, Phil}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Stong, Phil}{$I[tim]1899;Stong, Phil}

Stong’s first published novel, State Fair, was an immediate success, bringing him economic security and a strong reputation. The novel was made into a motion picture, with Will Rogers in one of the lead roles; after World War II the story was again filmed, this time in color. One of the immediate results of the first motion picture version was that the author was able to repurchase the farmstead which had belonged to his maternal grandfather. After 1932 Stong published a number of novels, but none achieved the popularity of his first. Most of his fiction is about Iowa and the people from the rural areas and small towns of that state. Stong presents midwestern farm life as a full and pleasant existence. Stranger’s Return relates the return to happy farm life of a young woman who went east to marry a newspaperman. Village Tale depicts life, and an episode of unusual violence, in a small Iowa railroad town. Week-end exposes the shams of supposedly sophisticated New Yorkers. Farmer in the Dell drew upon Stong’s experience in Hollywood and presents an Iowa farmer’s brief experience as a Hollywood actor. In 1937 Stong reached back into history for Buckskin Breeches, which tells of a family’s migration from Ohio to Iowa early in the nineteenth century.

Later novels draw upon different kinds of materials. The Iron Mountain, a study of a Finnish woman’s impact on a Scandinavian and Balkan community in the Mesabi country of Minnesota, makes skillful use of dialects. Our Destiny is a topical novel describing the effect of the Pearl Harbor attack and World War II on an Iowa farm family and their way of life. Jessamy John is a fictional presentation of John Law. None of these later novels, all well-done pieces of fiction, achieved great popularity or won critical acclaim; Stong has remained for most readers the author of a single novel, State Fair.

In addition to these novels, Stong turned out a host of other volumes, including a number of books for children. One of them, The Hired Man’s Elephant, won the New York Herald Tribune prize for juvenile fiction in that year. Also in 1939 appeared Stong’s study of the horse in the United States, Horses and Americans. Other nonfictional items include Hawkeyes, a history of Iowa; If School Keeps, an autobiographical volume; and Marta of Muscovy, a biography of the wife of Peter the Great. Stong’s last novel was Return in August, a sequel to State Fair which resumes the story of Margy Drake twenty years after the first volume left her and her romance.

BibliographyAndrews, Clarence A. A Literary History of Iowa. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1972.Mills, George. “Phil Stong’s Legacy.” Des Moines Register, August 11, 1974.Paluka, Frank. Iowa Authors: A Bio-Bibliography of Sixty Native Writers. Iowa City: Friends of the University of Iowa Libraries, 1967.“Phil Stong.” In Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 6: 1956-1960. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1980.
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