A Life in Sketches

If Nevada can be said to have a first family equivalent to the Kennedys of Massachusetts, that family is the Laxalts. This immigrant Basque clan of a century's residence has given America a U.S. senator (Paul Laxalt, now retired) and a poet laureate, Paul's late brother Robert, who turned the Basques' experience of the West into literature.

Robert Laxalt (1923-2001) was born in Alturas, California, the last of six children of Dominique and Therese Laxalt, immigrants who hustled through the Depression by everything from bootlegging to sheep ranching to the operation of the small Basque Hotel in Carson City Nevada. Laxalt grew up there in a Norman Rockwell West, haunting the local pool hall as well as the public library, surrounded by a busy ranching economy and its colorful characters. He herded sheep with his father and uncles, attended the University of Nevada at Reno, and worked as a UPI reporter covering state government in Carson City. Since Carson City is Nevada's capital, the author was, from an early age, acutely aware of the political and cultural life of his state. Brother Paul used this political awareness and familiarity as a springboard to a national political career that eventually made him a close confidant of President Ronald Reagan. Robert also derived much of his writerly material from it.

Working in both fiction and nonfiction, Laxalt devoted 17 books—notably Sweet Promised Land...

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