Books Set in Wisconsin – Books Based in Wisconsin – Wisconsin Novels

The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

Packer, Ann
Knopf 2002

“A reckless attempt to impress Carrie, Mike’s dive off Clausen’s Pier rendered him paralyzed. Now Carrie finds herself torn between the loyalty she’s expected to feel toward Mike and her need to transform herself. She takes a dive of her own – into adulthood – when she escapes to New York.” -Booklist

The Pride of Tellfair

Peake, Elmore Elliott
NY: Harper 1903

Elmore Peake (1871-1921) was born in Ohio and lived in Janesville, WI for a time. His wife was from Lake Geneva WI. He worked for several years as a private secretary to railroad executives before becoming a novelist in 1896. The Pride of Tellfair is said to be set in Lake Geneva. Books based in Wisconsin.

Hjalmar, or the Immigrant’s Son

Peterson, James A.
Minneapolis: Holter 1922

Penitentiary Post

Pinkerton, Kathrene Sutherland and Pinkerton, Robert Eugene
NY: Doubleday 1920

Kathrene Gedney Pinkerton (1887-1967) was born in Minneapolis and was a graduate of UW-Madison. Robert Pinkerton (1882-1970) was born in Arena, Iowa County, WI. He attended UW-Madison, then worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Milwaukee. The two married in 1911. Their first effort in fiction was a novelette that they sold to Munsey’s Magazine for $150. They used the money to move to Canada, building an isolated cabin in the woods of Ontario. They continued to write fiction and non-fiction, jointly and separately, from the north woods for many years.

A story of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Phil Boynton is sent to take charge of the fort known as Penitentiary Post, a place with an evil reputation. Behind him at Savant House, he leaves the girl he loves, knowing that John Wickson, the man who Is sending him north, also loves her and is determined to win her, and half suspecting that personal motives were back of the appointment. At Penitentiary Post he finds himself fully occupied with the mystery of the “weeteego,” or evil spirit, that haunts it. His Indians desert the place in fear and the fur hunters refuse to come near It. Joyce Plummer, hearing tales of what he Is undergoing, comes alone through the storm to find him, and Wickson follows. The three, who are forced to make common cause against hunger, come to an understanding, and the poor, crazed Indian who had watched his family die of starvation and is taking a weird revenge on the white man, meets his own fate. – Book Review Digest

Under Sail

Riesenberg, Felix
NY: Macmillan 1918

Felix Reisenberg (1879-1939) was born in Milwaukee and attended the New York Nautical School, graduating in 1897. He then became a deck officer in the Merchant Marine, and served in the Naval Reserve. He twice served on the crews of airships that attempted to reach the North Pole, in 1906 and 1907. In 1913 he graduated from the Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science, and then worked as a civil engineer for New York State, serving also as superintendent of the New York Nautical School. His novels drew upon both his careers; seaman and civil engineer. His widely-used textbook on seamanship was published in 1922.
Under Sail is (according to a publisher description) “a narrative of the old square-rigger sailing ship days, detailing the story of a voyage around Cape Horn to Honolulu and back to New York in the American three skysail yarder “A. J. Fuller” in 1897-8″

Harvest Moon: A Wisconsin Outdoor Anthology

Rulsey, Ted, ed.
Lost River 1993

“A collection of 26 evocative stories and essays, all by Wisconsin authors. Thoughtful, well-crafted pieces by beloved outdoor favorites such as Aldo Leopold, August Derleth and Gordon MacQuarrie, contemporary writers like Justin Isherwood and George Vukelich, and even a few gifted newcomers venerate the many ways in which people relate to this beautiful land and how the outdoors has shaped or changed their lives.” -Book cover Other authors represented include: Walt Sandberg – Robert Hillebrand – Jerry Wilber – Scott Bestul – Clay Schoenfeld – Douglas McLean – Richard Yatzeck – Timoth L. Personius – Tom Davis – Larry Van Goethem – Richard Behm – Susan Wendorf – Galen Winter – John Beth – Roger Drayna – Dion Henderson – Don L. Johnson – John Bates – Mel Ellis – Dan Small – Frances Hamerstrom. Books set in Wisconsin.


Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
ROC 2004

Kristine Kathyrn Rusch, born 1960, lived in Wisconsin from 1967 until the late 1980s. Her school years were spent in Superior, WI, where her father taught at University of Wisconsin-Superior, and she earned her bachelor’s degree at UW-Madison. She fairly quickly became a best-selling author of Science Fiction. According to her biographical entry in Wikipedia, she writes under various pseudonyms in multiple genres, including fantasy, mystery, romance and mainstream.

Elegant Journey

Selby, John
Rinehart 1944

Southerner frees slaves and starts out anew in Wisconsin; 1840s. Books set in Wisconsin.

The Only Way

Shastid, Dr. Thomas Hall
Duluth, MN: Conopus 1926

Dr. Shastid (1866-?) was born in Pittsfield, Ill. and studied at universities in Vermont, Harvard, Michigan and Vienna before becoming a practicing Ophthalmologist in Superior, WI. He wrote widely in his professional field and published numerous books and articles, both fiction and nonfiction, on many other subjects.

Best Science Fiction Stories of Clifford D. Simak

Simak, Clifford D.
Doubleday 1965

Off Keck Road

Simpson, Mona
Knopf 2000

“When Bea Maxwell returns to her small home town, in 1964, after college and a stint at a big-city ad agency, she wants to believe that this is not the end of her story—that the chapter including ‘the startling redemption’ is still to come. But what follows is less a story than a catalogue of fragile moments that never crystallize into actual events. Bea wrestles with the propriety of a woman telephoning a man, flirts awkwardly with a priest, and deflects a sexual advance from her married boss, to her regret. It’s not easy to write a novel in which the central tragedy is that nothing happens, but the author uses the cumulative power of small details to convince us that Bea’s stalled life is a life worth knowing.” -New Yorker

The Legatee

Smith, Alice Prescott
Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1903

“It is a story of the lumber districts of the northeastern peninsula of Wisconsin. The hero of the book, the legatee, is a young Southerner, who inherits a lumber mill in the district and goes there to take possession of it. He finds himself met by a spirit of hostility, due primarily to the fact that he is a Southerner and has been a slave-owner, but also largely to his inability to understand and sympathize with the people. Along with the animosity of sectionalism growing out of the war, there Is also developed a further dislike of the stranger by the teaching of temperance fanatics, who denounce him as a wine bibber, and certain socialists, who look upon him as a representative of capitalistic oppressors of workingmen.”Books set in Wisconsin.

“The author knows the country well. We are told that when she was but a child her father went to this country as a Congregational missionary and she grew up amid the scenes and the people she describes. It is said of her that her father’s parish covered a wide district, and in his long drives from farm to farm he made a comrade of his daughter. There was not a village she did not know, and she often stayed for weeks with friends on the forest farms.” – Review article in the San Francisco Call, Vol. 93, no. 147, 26 Apr 1903

Merrilie Dawes

Spearman, Frank Hamilton
NY: Scribner 1913

Frank Spearman (1859-1937) lived in Appleton from l868-l879, attending public schools and Lawrence College, and lived in Wisconsin again from l884 to 1886. A popular novelist and short story writer, especially on railroad themes, his novel Whispering Smith was made into movies eight times and became a TV series in 1961.

A novel in which the characters are a group of financiers who buy and sell railroads with the celerity and nonchalance with which lesser men might acquire and dispose of so much kindling wood. Merrilie Dawes, the heroine, is a very rich young woman who says she is tired of being looked upon as “an estate.” She cannot escape her destiny, however; the wealth is hers, and thru the possession of it she finds herself involved in the financial ventures that threaten to overwhelm her friend John Adrane. She meets Adrane only after he has become engaged to Annie Whitney, but in the panic which bankrupts John this inconvenient engagement is dissolved and he is left free to become something more than a friend to Merrilie. – Book Review Digest

Bitter Sweet

Spencer, LaVyrle
Putnam 1990

“The untimely death of her husband leaves Maggie Pearson wealthy but emotionally bereft. Two decades after she has left home, Maggie returns to Wisconsin to fortify her spirits and decides to open a bed-and-breakfast despite dire warnings from her tight-lipped mother and the hurt fury of her college-age daughter. Her first love, Eric Severson, is also back in town, running a family-owned charter fishing boat to the great displeasure of his beautiful, ambitious wife.” Publ Wkly

Partners of Providence

Stewart, Charles David
NY: Century 1907

Charles Stewart (1868-1960) was born in Zanesville, OH and attended school in Milwaukee and Beaver Dam, WI. He served as the Executive Secretary to the Governor of Wisconsin from 1915-16, and lived in Hartford, Dodge and Washington Counties, WI. He is known for his novels, essays, and short stories, many of which have a Wisconsin background.

In the vernacular of the rover, Sam Daly recounts his “rolling-stone, happy-go-lucky” experiences mainly on “Mississippi river steamboats and the rafts and landings alongside from Cairo to New Orleans.” Sam’s partners are his dog Rags and Clancy, the expert “tosser” of hot rivets into a bridge-builder’s bucket. They run the round of chance, sometimes are masters of fate, often a prey to it, but are ever cheerful philosophers. – A. L. A. Booklist

The Hellfire Club

Straub, Peter
Ballantine 1997

Peter Straub was born in Milwaukee in 1943, where he lived until departing for Ireland in 1969. He has been a best-selling author of Horror Fiction since the mid-1970s.

The Contessa’s Sister

Teall, Gardner Callahan
Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1911

Gardner Teall (1878-?) was born in Eau Claire, WI and was educated in Minnesota. From about 1910 he was in New York and worked as an editor on magazines such as House and Garden, American Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping.

A young American with literary proclivities and enough money to insure him leisure goes to the island of Capri, hires a villa, where straightway a face—”as lovely as any Raphael knew”— gets confused with his azure skies and primrose sunsets. His course of love is not altogether smooth, because a German baron has seen the face too. Everything works out pleasantly and the reader finds the story full of real people whom it is entertaining to know; among them, besides the three mentioned, are the Contessa, an American widow, and an English spinster. – Book Review Digest

“Wisconsin Fiction: Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Issue”

Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters Vol 85 (1997) p. v

Urbrock, Bill, ed.
Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters

15 Short Story selections were selected from a large number of submissions for this special edition of the “Transactions”, to celebrate Wisconsin’s 150th anniversary of statehood. While they were chosen for their quality, many of the stories are set in various locations in Wisconsin. The authors are: Marnie Krause, C. J. Hribal, Karen Loeb, Martha Bergland, Thomas Bontly, Margaret Benbow, Julie King, Carol Sklenicka, David R. Young, Peg Sherry, Tom Joseph, Ron Wallace, Gordon Weaver, David Tabachnick, and Anthony Bukoski.

Glenwood of Shipbay

Walsh, John Henry
NY: Macmillan 1921

John Walsh (1879-?) was born in Marquette Co., WI, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, and received an M.S. in Naval Architecture at MIT. He had a career in the Navy and authored short stories and novels.

The hero is a Maine shipbuilder, eccentric, forceful, and given to the emission of sententious remarks something in the manner of Pudd’nhead Wilson, though they are not always bull’s-eyes. His career is followed from boyhood, through various adventures in business, in love affairs, and politics, to a spectacular success. — Literary Digest

The Herd

Ward, Jane Olive Patricia
NY: Cochrane 1908

Jane Ward (1882-1918) was born and grew up in Lake Geneva, WI and attended university in Minneapolis. She traveled widely throughout the U.S., studying the condition of the laboring classes, the race problem in the south and the position of small farmers in the midwest.

Richard Epps, and other stories

Watrous, Jerome A.
Milwaukee: Watrous 1906

Jerome Watrous (1840-1922) was born in New York and lived with his parents in Wisconsin as a child for six years. In 1857 her returned to Wisconsin, teaching for two years in Calumet County and working on newspapers in Menasha and Appleton. He then served in the Infantry for four years during the Civil War, returning to newspaper work in Black River Falls, Fond du Lac and Milwaukee. During those years he also served in the Wisconsin State Assembly and was a customs collector in Milwaukee. He returned to military service as a Major during the Spanish American War, and was sent to the Philippines in 1900.
In addition to his works of fiction, Watrous authored a 2-volume history of Milwaukee county (1900). The stories in Richard Epps were mostly published in previous years by the Chicago Times-Herald, and drew upon Watrous’s military experience.


Watson, Larry
Perennial Classics 2000

The author “introduces us to Henry and Sonya House, a couple who have drifted apart after the death of their 4-year-old son. They own an apple orchard that has been in Henry’s family for generations. … One day.. Sonja is approached by Ned Weaver, a local artist with a reputation for sleeping with his models, who asks her to pose for him. She agrees … Weaver becomes obsessed with Sonja, and Henry … becomes increasingly jealous until he confronts Weaver.” -NY Times Book Rev

Britomart, the Socialist

Weir, Florence Roney
Chicago: Scroll

Born in Waupun (Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties), Florence Weir (1861-1932) made her home as an adult in Seattle, writing short stories for magazines and publishing a number of novels.

The Grandmothers

Wescott, Glenway
Harper 1927

Winner of the 1927 Harper Prize. “Based on Wescott’s own life and family, the young Alwyn Tower leaves Wisconsin to travel in Europe, but finds himself haunted by a family of long-dead spirits – his grandparents and great-uncles and aunts, a generation whose young adulthood was shattered by the Civil War. Their images were preserved in fading family albums of daguerreotypes and in his own fragmented memories of stories told to him by his strong and enduring grandmothers.” Book cover

Lydia of the Pines

Willsie, Honore
NY: Stokes 1917

Nora Bryan McCue (1880-1940) was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, and moved with her family to Madison, WI as a small child. She majored in history at UW-Madison and married Henry Willsie there in 1904. The couple was living in Arizona when she began submitting articles to magazines under the name Honore Willsie. After divorcing Willsie, she married publisher William Morrow in 1924, who soon afterward founded a New York publishing house. She continued to write in New York, becoming an authority on Abraham Lincoln and publishing a number of novels and biographies.

(About the book) “They are as poor as a family can be, among those rolling northern hills. Amos and his girls, Lydia and Patience — with the hired help Lizzie whom Amos can barely afford — scrape out a meager living on the edge of a town nestled among maple-edged farmlands. But Lydia is as rich with life as the motherless family is poor of pennies. With her friend Kent and even the spoiled Margery she finds play and joy aplenty. Troubles loom ahead, though: sickness, worries, and debts — and then political turmoil so fierce it threatens to tear the community apart — and that even more direly threatens the nearby Indians on their ancestral lands.”

“Lydia has no choice but to face the difficulties as they arrive. Yet it is when she learns about the old pine woods, and takes to heart what they mean, that she moves at last, and forever, beyond girlhood.”- From the Goodreads website

Poems of Pleasure

Wilcox, Ella Wheeler
Chicago: Conkey 1897

Ella Wilcox (1855-1919) grew up at Lake Mendota, near Madison, where she remained until her late 20s. She became well-known in Wisconsin for her poetry while still in high school. Her poem “Solitude” began with the still-familiar lines:
“Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone”
Later in life she was associated with Spiritualism and Theosophy. Her autobiography, The Worlds and I can be found on the Biographies & Memoirs in Wisconsin History page of this website.

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

Every One His Own Way

Wyatt, Edith Franklin
NY: McClure. 1901

Edith Wyatt (1873-1958) was born in Tomah, Monroe County, WI, attended high school in Chicago and college at Bryn Mawr. She spent most of her adult life in Chicago, writing novels.

Collected Poems

Zaturenska, Marya
Viking 1965
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