After graduating from high school in Pennsylvania, Abbey was drafted into the Army and spent nearly two years in occupied Italy before receiving his discharge in 1946. The following year he moved out west and matriculated at the University of New Mexico, where he received a B.A. in Philosophy in 1951. Abbey returned to the University of New Mexico several years later, receiving a master’s degree in 1959 (his thesis was on “Anarchism and the Morality of Violence”), but his primary interest was in writing fiction. Abbey’s first novel, Jonathan Troy (1954)was critically and commercially unsuccessful, but a film version of his second novel, The Brave Cowboy: An Old Tale in a New Time (1956), retitled Lonely are the Brave, was made in 1962. Abbey’s literary breakthrough, however, did not come until 1968 when he published his first work of nonfiction, Desert Solitaire. That book, centered around Abbey’s experience as a seasonal park ranger in Arches National Monument, gained Abbey a reputation as a nature writer. Abbey resisted this categorization, referring to his nonfiction writings as “personal history” rather than nature writing.
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