Writing the Range

Photos by E.J. Carr

Corinne Joy brown

Corinne Joy Brown did not have to fall in love with the West. She arrived that way: “I was born and raised in Denver and I spent my childhood around horses. I grew up during the age of TV Westerns (from Roy Rogers to Hopalong Cassidy) and I thought I would marry a cowboy … or be one.”

Being the daughter of European parents who fled the continent during the Holocaust gave the Cherry Hills Village resident a different perspective on the Colorado lifestyle. “People still come here seeking that dream they read about and saw on the screen. The West represents freedom and justice to them, the good guys in the white hats,” she says.

You can almost hear the clip-clop and smell the hay reading Finding Home, Brown’s newest book with illustrator Ginny McDonald. The independently published trade paperback is aimed at middle school readers. The inspiration was McDonald’s adoption of a wild horse of the American Curly breed, which sprouts an adorable French poodle-like coat come winter. “There are now more than 70,000 wild horses being held in pens in the West, mostly in Nevada,” Brown says. “By the end of the decade there may be none left.”

This zest for all things Western has more than informed Brown’s career as an award-winning Western writer and author. Her first novel, MacGregor’s Lantern, depicted Colorado cattle barons in the late 1800s. A later novel, Sanctuary Ranch, is about love and ambition in the country music and rodeo worlds, and is co-written with cowboy Junior Michael Ray. The message of her equine children’s book, Wishful Watoosi: The Horse That Wished He Wasn’t, is simply “accept yourself just the way you are,” she says.

When she’s not on the frontier, the author and her husband, Avi Brown, work in interior design and sell contemporary home furnishings. “I have an ultra-contemporary home, but it is also a Western museum. I can’t let go of anything,” Corinne Joy Brown says with a laugh.

Corinne Joy Brown’s dinnerware collection
Corinne Joy Brown’s Western dinnerware collection.

One spacious room in the house is devoted to sharing her curated Western popular-history collection and artifacts from the trail she blazed. Eventually, she hopes to place everything (mainly pieces from her 450-piece Western dinnerware collection) in a permanent Western museum.

To those with a desire to get a taste of the West in Colorado, Brown has a few suggestions. First, get out to Pawnee National Grassland and the South Park valley, which look a lot like Colorado in the cowboy days. For something more immersive, she recommends staying at either Colorado Cattle Company and Guest Ranch in New Raymer or T-Lazy-7 Ranch in Aspen. One easy, tasty approach is to dine at The Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s historic restaurant and Western culture icon.

“You don’t have to go very far to get a taste of the West,” she says. Brown herself still loves to ride and does so whenever she can.

Corinne Joy Brown’s all-time favorite volumes about the West and horses:

  1. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry: A Pulitzer Prize-winning classic about love and adventure.
  2. Centennial by James A. Michener: Commemorating the 1976 Bicentennial, this saga focuses on the people who defined the West.
  3. Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James: When wild horse and cowboy meet, told from the perspective of the horse.
  4. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell: The novel, which tackles the humane treatment of animals from the viewpoint of a horse, ranks among the best-selling books of all time.
  5. The Spanish Peaks: A Novel of Frontier Colorado by Jon Chandler: A tale of revenge in which the protagonist—a father who lost a daughter—travels across the Centennial State.