The Nevada They Knew

Robert Caples and Walter Van Tilburg Clark


The Nevada They Knew (Cover)
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Robert Caples (1908–1979) was Nevada’s leading artist of the twentieth century, Walter Van Tilburg Clark (1909–1971) its leading novelist. Caples’ works range from risque cartoon maps of Reno during its heyday as the nation’s divorce mill, to exquisite charcoal portraits honoring Nevada Indians, to profoundly spiritual renderings of Nevada mountains. Clark’s fame rests on The Ox-Bow Incident, but his great novel is The City of Trembling Leaves, a celebration of youth and the life of art based in part on the early years of his friendship with Caples. The Nevada They Knew tells the full story of that lifelong friendship. Shafton goes back and forth between the novel and the men’s biographies to understand their lives and works. He explores the reasons Clark’s fiction too soon came to a dead end, while Caples eventually ceased painting as a spiritual choice. The Nevada They Knew is also a memoir, of Shafton’s friendship with Caples, his attachment to Clark’s novel The City of Trembling Leaves, and his connection to Nevada, which both men taught him to love.

The Notes, Index and References for The Nevada They Knew may be found online at or in hard copy at Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Library. The Notes comprise 105 pages of sourcing and of additional comments which, for reasons of style or space, were not incorporated in the text. The Index is a comprehensive listing of topics, names, and titles of works of art and literature mentioned in the Notes as well as in book itself. In the References are identified published sources (excluding newspapers, to be found in the Notes), serving the reader as a resource for further information.