Daniel Herman: A closer look at the history professor and author

Milenne Quinonez , Staff Reporter

History Professor Daniel Justin Herman has been teaching here for over 22 years. “The Feudist: A Novel Of The Pleasant Valley War is his most recently published book. 

“It took me eight years,” Herman said. “I worked on that thing for eight years, believe it or not. I was like a crazy person.” 

Herman was recently featured as a speaker in CWU’s Author Talk series where he discussed the writing experience and research of both his novel The Feudist: A novel of the Pleasant Valley War, and recently published nonfiction monograph Hell on the Range.

“The Feudist” tells a story about Arizona’s Pleasant Valley War in the 1800’s. The narrator is a rancher named Ben Holcomb, the story begins as Holcomb begins to reflect on his youth as stockboy working in Globe City, Arizona. Holcomb grows bored of his job and agrees to become an apprentice cowboy. Throughout his journey to his employers ranch he gets caught into a violent range war. Over the next years he meets many people along the way, and finds himself in love as well as battling through chaos. 

Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Herman says the story originally began as a screenplay that his father had written. Herman says although the story was good, it was not historically accurate, so his father agreed to hand the project over to him so he could revise the story to fit the time period it was written about. He decided to change the plot and the characters of the story, which led to his decision to turn it into a novel.

Although Herman said he worked on the book daily, it started off difficult before it got better for him. He said he slowly began to figure out how fiction writers wrote and how to stick with short chapters and disregard unnecessary information. 

“Pacing is very essential in fiction,” Herman said. “The reader has to feel like things are happening, so that was one of the lessons I learned.” 

Herman said he was not familiar with writing fiction at all. He referred to fiction books his wife and he would read, as well as get help from colleagues. He sent out early chapters to them and received feedback from Joe Powell, a retired creative writing professor from CWU, and historian friends. 

As a child who lived in Tucson at one point in his life, Herman says he grew up on television westerns, and had a very narrow understanding of what the west really was. But as he became a historian, he grew familiar with the tragedy and violence of the west. 

“My novel, I guess, is an attempt for the boy version of myself and the adult version of myself to speak to one another and to play out these contradictions,” Herman said. 

Herman said that not only is the book a good read, but the purpose is also for readers to understand history from the novel. 

“I hope that people will just give it a try,” said Herman. 

According to CWU’s website he has produced three books, 12 scholarly articles, 30 book reviews and encyclopedia articles.