Central Oregon’s Prolific Western Writer

Central Oregon’s Prolific Western Writer

Dwight Bennett Newton

By Steve Lent, Crook County Historian

Dwight Bennett Newton was born on January 14, 1916 in Kansas City, Missouri. He attended Northeast High School in Kansas City. He later attended the University of Missouri Kansas City and graduated in three years. He married Mary Jane Kregel on January 29, 1941. He took a year off then returned to the university to obtain a Masters Degree in history. He intended to be a teacher but when the United States entered World War II he volunteered for the Army Corps of Engineers. He served from 1942 to 1946. He was sent to Camp Abbot in Central Oregon for training in 1943.

After the war he and Mary settled in Bend, Oregon. He began to professionally write western fiction. He wrote short stories for magazines and novels. One of his novels, Range Boss, was printed by Pocket Books in 1949 and that was the first work of fiction issued directly to paperback without first appearing in hardcover.
He became a founding member of the Western Writers of America and served as its first secretary-treasurer and as a board member for ten years. He wrote several western novels over the next decade. In the late 1950s the family moved to Hollywood and he began work as a writer and story consultant for several television shows. He wrote scripts for such shows as Tales of Wells Fargo, Wagon Train, and Death Valley Days.

Hollywood writers went on strike in 1960 and it freed him from the daily grind of script writing and allowed him to return to writing western novels. The family returned to Bend in 1965 and he continued to write prolifically. Many of his novels had a local Central Oregon setting including Crooked River Canyon, Disaster Creek, The Hangman’s Knot, The Big Land,, and The Oregon Rifles. He was one of the main authors for Double D western books.

He began teaching imaginative writing classes at Central Oregon Community College and received significant local recognition. He wrote under several pseudonyms including Dwight Bennett, Clement Hardin, Ford Logan and Hank Mitchum.

He discontinued writing in 1999. He had published more than 70 novels, 175 short stories and over 30 television scripts. He died on June 30, 2013 in Bend. He was buried in the Tumalo Cemetery. His wife Mary Jane passed away on March 20, 2018.