Image of James Oliver Curwood


Lifetime: 1878 - 1927 Passed: ≈ 96 years ago


American Action-Adventure Writer, Conservationist


United States

James Oliver Curwood

James Oliver Curwood (June 12, 1878 – August 13, 1927) was an American action-adventure writer and conservationist. His books were often based on adventures set in the Hudson Bay area, the Yukon or Alaska and ranked among the top-ten best sellers in the United States in the early and mid-1920s, according to Publishers Weekly. At least one hundred and eighty motion pictures have been based on or directly inspired by his novels and short stories; one was produced in three versions from 1919 to 1953. At the time of his death, Curwood was the highest paid (per word) author in the world.

Curwood's adventure writing followed in the tradition of Jack London. Curwood set many of his works in the wilds of the Great Northwest and often used animals as lead characters (Kazan; Baree, Son of Kazan, The Grizzly King, and Nomads of the North). Many of Curwood's adventure novels also feature romance as primary or secondary plot consideration. This approach gave his work broad commercial appeal; his novels ranked on many best-seller lists in the early and mid-1920s. One of his most successful books was his 1919 novel, The River's End. The book sold more than 100,000 copies and was the fourth best-selling title of the year in the United States, according to Publishers Weekly.

Curwood's short stories and other pieces were published in various literary and popular magazines throughout his career. His bibliography includes more than 200 such articles, short stories, and serializations. His work was also published in Canada and the United Kingdom. Some of his books were translated into French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Czech and Polish, and published in those respective countries.

Curwood was born in Owosso, Michigan, the youngest of four children. Attending local schools, Curwood left high school before graduation. He passed the entrance exam to the University of Michigan and was allowed to enroll in the English department, where he studied journalism.

After two years, Curwood quit college to become a reporter, moving to Detroit for work. In 1898, he sold his first story while attending the University of Michigan. In 1907 he was hired by the Canadian government to travel to the northern reaches of Canada to write and publish accounts of his travels to encourage tourism, his trips in Canada inspired his wilderness adventure stories. For many years he traveled to the Hudson Bay area, the Yukon and Alaska for several months each year for more inspiration. He wrote and published twenty-eight adventure/nature novels, two collections of short stories, one non-fiction volume (The Great Lakes), a volume of introspection (God's Country: The Trail to Happiness), and an autobiography, (The Glory of Living).

By 1922, Curwood had become very wealthy from the success of his writing. After a tour of Europe with his family where he toured old European castles, he came home and built his own, Curwood Castle in Owosso, Michigan. Constructed in the style of an 18th-century French chateau, the castle is set on the Shiawassee River near downtown Owosso. In one of the castles two large turrets, Curwood set up his writing studio. He also owned a lodge on the Ausable River near Roscommon, Michigan that he used as a retreat for rest and relaxation from his rigorous writing career.

Curwood was an avid hunter in his youth; however, as he grew older, he became an advocate of conservation and environmentalism. He was appointed to the Michigan Conservation Commission in 1927. The change in his attitude toward wildlife is expressed in a quote from The Grizzly King: "The greatest thrill is not to kill but to let live."

Curwood's daughter, Carlotta Curwood Tate, documented in an account in the Curwood Collector that in 1927, while on a fishing trip in Florida, Curwood was bitten or stung through hip waders by something, source unknown. Health problems related to the bite escalated over the next few months as an infection developed. He died in Owosso at the age of 49, and was interred in Oak Hill Cemetery there in a family plot.

Books by James Oliver Curwood

The Alaskan Cover image

The Alaskan

Adventure Action Fiction
Mystery Ship Journey

The Alaskan is a typical Curwood tale, with wonderful descriptions of the Alaskan landscape, the wildlife, vegetation and local populations. The plot is studded with exciting twists and turns, memorable characters and is indeed a great read for young...

The Great Lakes and the Vessels That Plough Them Cover image

The Great Lakes and the Vessels That Plough Them

History Nature Adventure Travel Economics Free Industry Business

"The Great Lakes and the Vessels That Plough Them" by James Oliver Curwood beckons you to traverse the vast and breathtaking waters of North America's most awe-inspiring natural wonders. Imagine standing at the water's edge, gazing out upon immense e...

God's Country—And the Woman Cover image

God's Country—And the Woman

James Curwood wrote many adventures of the far north. By 1909 he had saved enough money to travel to the Canadian northwest, a trip that provided the inspiration for his wilderness adventure stories. The success of his novels afforded him the opportu...

Valley of Silent Men Cover image

Valley of Silent Men

Subtitled: A Story of the Three River Country. James Kent has learned that he is terminally ill with perhaps only days to live, and so decides to confess to a murder and thus save an innocent man. Nobody believes his confession, particularly Marette,...

Country Beyond Cover image

Country Beyond

The Country Beyond, subtitled A Romance In the Wilderness, is a story of "Jolly" Roger McKay, an outcast on the run from the law; Nada, the girl he falls in love with; and Peter, the devoted mixed-breed dog who links the two together as no human coul...

Flaming Forest Cover image

Flaming Forest

A tale of mystery, romance, and honor, as David Carrigan must choose between his duty as an officer of the law and a girl who holds him captive; a girl who Carrigan thinks he may have fallen in love with no less! Who is this strange girl Jean-Marie,...

Honor of the Big Snows Cover image

Honor of the Big Snows

What unseen force may have brought young Jan Thoreau and his music from out of the barren lands into the remote camp of Lac Bain, forever changing the lives of those few who lived there? What brought him to the home of John and Melisse Cummins as the...

Flower of the North Cover image

Flower of the North

Flower of the North finds Philip Whittemore on an adventure which takes him up the Churchill River of northern Canada to a land which he thought he knew. However, tucked in among the rocks and hills lies an unfamiliar outpost which he's been told is...

Danger Trail Cover image

Danger Trail

Chicago engineer Jack Howland is sent to the edge of the Canadian barren lands north of Prince Albert to establish a train route through some of the most treacherous terrain in North America. He would soon learn that it was not only the terrain that...

Golden Snare Cover image

Golden Snare

With but two years of service in the RNMP Philip Raine finds himself somewhat unwillingly on the trail of Bram Johnson, wanted for murder and a wild, untamed and savage man who commands a pack of wolves as his brethren. But most peculiar of all is th...

Gold Hunters Cover image

Gold Hunters

In The Gold Hunters we find 3 men in search of a treasure of gold hidden away in the upper reaches of the Canadian wilderness. One, a young white man, another his half breed friend, and the third the wise old Indian sage who communes with the wildern...

Wolf Hunters Cover image

Wolf Hunters

Follow Roderick and his friends Wabi and Mukoki on their adventures in the pristine North. They fight voracious wolves, hostile natives, and the vicious elements of nature, while on the hunt. Getting more than they bargained for, they discover a myst...

Kazan Cover image


Kazan (sometimes published with the subtitle The Wolf Dog) is a once very popular novel by environmentalist and author James Oliver Curwood. After a trip to the Yukon area of Canada and Alaska, Curwood wrote a series of wilderness adventure novels th...

Isobel Cover image


Action, intrigue, and a touch of romance in the farthest reaches of northern Canada. Sergeant Billy MacVeigh of the Canadian Northwest Mounted, with his only partner Pelliter are the only official representatives in the lonely and desolate reaches of...

Hunted Woman Cover image

Hunted Woman

This adventurous story of a woman in peril begins "It was all new - most of it singularly dramatic and even appalling to the woman who sat with the pearl-gray veil drawn closely about her face. For eighteen hours she had been a keenly attentive, wide...

Courage of Marge O'Doone Cover image

Courage of Marge O'Doone

David Raine is travelling, trying to escape his own memories. On the train he meets Father Rolland, who invites him North, to a world of "mystery and savage glory", to help him find himself again. On the same train, he meets a mysterious woman search...