Ernie Pyle in the American Southwest

Article excerpt

Melzer, Richard. Ernie Pyle in the American Southwest. Santa Fe, N.M.: Sunstone Press, 1996. 176 pp. S18.95.

Ernie Pyle has a significant place in the minds and libraries of journalism historians. His ability to capture the common person before and during World War II made him one of the country's favorite newspaper writers. One of the characteristics of his writing was to connect the subject of his column to that person's home territory.

In other words, Pyle understood the role of place in a human being.

So does Richard Melzer, who is an associate professor of history at the University of New MexicoValencia specializing in twentiethcentury New Mexico history. This book covers some of the same material as previous Pyle biographies by Lee G. Miller and David Nichols, but Melzer concentrates more on Pyle's adult years in New Mexico. It is that place, he suggests, that had an impact on Pyle's writing and personal life.

New Mexico was populated largely by displaced persons, such as Pyle. It was also mostly wide open spaces, which is what attracted him to the region. It was full of people who he liked to write about-independent, self-taught and humble characters. He sought them out around the world for his stories and sought them out as neighbors to live among.

One aspect that Melzer does not address was that New Mexico, as mostly desert, also provided a poignant metaphor for Pyle's personal life wherein his and his wife's drastic mood swings dominated his latter years. …