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When Erskine Caldwell published his first full-length novel in 1932, he was soon launched as one of the South's most widely read novelists and storytellers. He reached his peak in the late 1930s and 40s, declining after World War II. Now, he almost totally neglected by students of American literature. In the 1940s William Faulkner ranked Caldwell, along with Thomas Wolfe, among the greatest 20th-century American novelists, and was considered for the Nobel Prize for literature. Studded throughout his stories and non-fiction is the recurring theme of folklore, most learned from the African Americans and farm hands he work with as a youth.
Although Boyd's parents were North Carolinians, he was born in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Princeton, where he first met Burt who was an English instructor there. Boyd served in World War I on the Italian front and at St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne. Illness developed during the war forced his early retirement, and he returned to his people's home in Southern Pines. There he wrote some of his best novels. Burt, who was his neighbor and the closest of his friends, remembers him in this essay.