William Least Heat-Moon

(Critical Survey of Native American Literature)

Author Profile

William Least Heat-Moon, best-selling author and noted lecturer, was born on August 27, 1939, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Ralph G. Trogdon and Maurine Davis Trogdon. His surname, Trogdon, comes from Irish and English ancestors. His pen name, Least Heat-Moon, comes from an Osage Indian ancestor who was born in July—the Moon of Heat. His father is known as Heat-Moon. His older brother is called Little Heat-Moon. Because William is the youngest and last, he took the name Least Heat-Moon. Heat-Moon credits his Osage ancestry as being the influential force in inspiring and shaping his works.

Heat-Moon received his degrees from the University of Missouri at Columbia: a B.A. in literature in 1961, an M.A. in literature in 1962, and a Ph.D. in literature in 1973. He also earned a B.A. in photojournalism in 1978. He taught literature at Stephen’s College in Columbia, Missouri, from 1965 to 1978. Heat-Moon was also a lecturer at the University of Missouri School of Journalism from 1985 to 1987. Since the late 1980’s, his main occupation has been that of writer and lecturer.

Although Heat-Moon contributes articles to a variety of prestigious magazines, such as Esquire, Time, and The Atlantic Monthly, he is best known for his nonfiction bestsellers, Blue Highways (1983) and PrairyErth (1991).

Blue Highways, his first book, is the culmination of a...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Baker, Samuel. “William Least Heat-Moon: Navigating America.” Publishers Weekly 246, no. 38 (September 20, 1999): 55-56. A profile of the author, whom Baker calls “cartographically-obsessed.”

Heat-Moon, William Least. Literary Cavalcade 37 (1984). A two-part interview that provides a look at Heat-Moon’s writing philosophy in general and his reflections on how he came to take the journey which produced Blue Highways.

Newquist, David L. “The Violation of Hospitality and the Demoralization of the Frontier.” Midwestern Miscellany 21 (1993). Compares Blue Highways with John G. Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks (1932).