The Lois Level Reads Missouri

This one is in honor of my father-in-law, who has spent most of his life in North Carolina but runs Missouri blood in his veins.

Missouri is a fascinating state…like Arkansas, its right in the middle, between the north and the south, the east and the west. If you remember your history, you know that the southerners and the northerners fought over the terms by which Missouri would be admitted to the United States lest the “balance” be tipped between the free and slave states.

I knew about Missouri’s past, but what I see in its present is the wide variety of voices that have come from there, including Laura Ingalls Wilder, who lived in Missouri most of her life, Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams (Who knew?), and Naomi Shihab Nye.

Also check out T.J. Stiles book on Jesse James…he wasn’t the folk hero you might think he was. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Books Written by Missourians and Set in Missouri


Mark Twain

Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) was born in Florida, Missouri.

Twain’s work is in the public domain. For free access to digital books at Project Gutenberg, click here. For free audio books at Librivox, click here.

Frances W. Rummell

Rummell, born in Brookfield, is apparently the author of the book, Diana, The Story of a Strange Love, that was possibly the first lesbian autobiography.

Because Rummell wrote under a pseudonym and was known to have changed some details of her life, it isn’t clear whether it is a pure autobiography or a novel based on her life.

Usually, we don’t run books that are out of print and difficult to find, but usually they go out of print because they are outdated, but this book seems worthy of a mention.

The image is from Wikipedia because Amazon doesn’t have one.

Harold Bell Wright

Wright lived in Pierce City and other places in Missouri. The Shepherd of the Hills was made into a film starring John Wayne.

Jonathan Franzen

Franzen grew up in Webster Grove and set his debut novel in Missouri. He later became famous for novels such as The Corrections.

Daniel Woodrell

Woodrell is from Springfield. He invented the term “country noir” to describe his books, mostly set in the Ozarks.

Vance Randolph

Randolph lived in Pineville.

Jetta Carleton

Carleton was born in Nevada, Missouri.

Paulette Jiles

Jiles was born in Salem. In addition to novels, she also writes poetry and memoir.

Evan S. Connell

Connell was from Kansas City.

Gillian Flynn

Flynn is from Kansas City.

Laura McHugh

Jean Carnahan

Carnahan was the First Lady of Missouri and also briefly represented Missouri in the U.S. Senate after being appointed to serve after the posthumous election of her husband.

Julie Mulhern

Mulhern is from Kansas City.

Elaine Viets

Viets is from St. Louis. Her “Francesca Vierling” mysteries may have some real life details from Viets’ time as a newspaperwoman for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

J.D. Trafford

Trafford lives in St. Louis.

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Samuel Major Gardenhire

Gardenhire was born in Fayette.

Laurell K. Hamilton

Hamilton lives in St. Louis County.

Rett MacPherson

MacPherson is from St. Louis

Carolyn Mulford

Mulford grew up in Kirksville, where she attended one room schools.


Tennessee Williams

Williams grew up in St. Louis.


Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wilder might be famous for her novels set in other places, but she actually lived most of her adult life in Mansfield.

Walter Johnson

Johnson grew up in Columbia.

Ron Powers

Like Mark Twain, Powers was born in Hannibal. His bestselling book is Flags of Our Fathers, about Iwo Jima in World War 2.

Candace O’Connor

Frankie Muse Freeman

O’Connor is from St. Louis. She has written several nonfiction books about the St. Louis area and co wrote this biography below, with Frankie Muse Freeman, a woman lawyer who helped break barriers during the Civil Rights era.

William Garrett Piston

Piston is a history professor at Southwest Missouri State University.

Robert Bevier

Bevier founded the town of Bevier, which was named for him.

Joseph A. Mudd

Mudd was from Millwood.


Ike Skelton

Congress member Skelton was born in Lexington.


Selected Books Written for Older Children and Young Adults


Books Written by Missourians and Set Elsewhere


Speer Morgan

Morgan taught at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Ruth Ann Musick

Musick was a folklorist who specialized in West Virginia, but she was born in Kirksville.

Pearl Doles Bell

Bell was born in St. Joseph. Although she is not well known now, early films were made from several of her books. To write Her Elephant Man, she traveled with Ringling Brothers Circus.


Herbert Asbury

Asbury was from Farmington.

Josiah Gregg

Gregg lived in Howard County.

Carl Shurz

Shurz started a newspaper in St. Louis.

Arthur A. Vogel

Vogel was an Episcopal bishop in West Missouri.

Rose Wilder Lane

Lane grew up in Mansfield; she was the daughter of children’s author Laura Ingalls Wilder.



Naomi Shihab Nye

Nye was born in St. Louis. She has written several excellent novels and poetry collections for adolescents, many of them set in Palestine and the Middle East.

She is the current Poet Laureate for Young People.

On a personal note, even though I am a fan of Nye’s, I didn’t realize that she is a Missourian; her name didn’t come up in any of my research. I heard it on Sirius/XM’s U2 channel, directly from Bono! How is that for a recommendation? Thanks Bono!xx

Selected Books Written for Older Children and Young Adults

Naomi Shihab Nye

Teri Clemens

Clemens is known as the “winningest volleyball coach” in NCAA history. She has lived in St. Louis.

Books Set in Missouri but Not Written by Missourians


Jonis Agee

Fannie Flagg

Flagg, best known for Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe, has written at least four novels set in Missouri.

Rebecca Makai

Elmore Leonard

John Edward Williams

Janet Dailey

Stephanie Carroll

A White Room is inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.

P. L. Whitney

Laura Miller

Amy Matayo


P. J. Sullivan

T. J. Stiles

According to this biography, Jesse James was less a random criminal and more the “forerunner of the modern terrorist”…and he was PRO slavery and PRO Confederate! Chilling.

Sean MacLaughlin

Troy Taylor

Galusha Anderson



Selected Books Written for Older Children and Young Adults

Christy Lenzi

Stone Field is inspired by Wuthering Heights.

MO27 South - State Line - Welcome Sign. 17 June 2016, 12:12. Click image for source.

MO27 South – State Line – Welcome Sign. 17 June 2016, 12:12. Click image for source.

Please comment at the bottom or on Facebook with suggestions. The idea is to make each state’s page as complete as possible but focused enough so that the page gives the reader an overall sense of place. Guidelines: In the case where the author has written several books set in the state, the most famous or recently published one will be selected.

Multiple books will be shown only if there is a reason to do so (e.g. significant topics, different genres, etc.). The author may be listed in more than one category, usually because the author’s most famous book is not set in the state. The famous book is listed to help readers recognize the author, but additional, less well known books, will be listed for those who want to read more about the state.

The intended audience for the The Lois Level is adult general readers, so books considered primarily for academic use will not be listed. For the same reason, authors who are completely out of print will usually not be included. Children’s books are limited to those that have adult appeal. Normally picture books are not included.

Recent and significant biographies of state notables are included with priority given to those written by state natives/residents or to individuals whose major contributions were state related.

Biographical Information

Wikipedia and author web pages are the primary sources for author information. If the author has several connections, usually the earliest one (birth, childhood) is used.