Keeping the history watch
Eric Moody is editor of Nevada in the West magazine, which is now in its sixth year. He previously served as curator of manuscripts and acting director of the Nevada Historical Society.
Go over that first five years. How did it turn out? How is it different from what you expected?
It’s been different than I expected. I am one in five partners behind the magazine. I’m the editor so I have a part in producing it [along with] a small, largely volunteer staff. But we began because there was no statewide publication devoted to Nevada history. The Nevada Historical Society Quarterly was on something of a hiatus, and Nevada Magazine had pretty much moved away from doing historical features. So I decided to get this going. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time. I retired from the Nevada Historical Society and began this in early 2010. It was supposed to be—conceptually, originally—sort of an illustrated, informal magazine or history journal. As you can see, it’s got some aspects of a journal. It has uniform headings on the articles. We have book reviews as well as the articles but they’re not footnoted. So as far as the content is concerned, I think it’s pretty much what I envisioned. I didn’t originally think of a glossy magazine, like we ended up with, but that was largely because it is the least expensive way to publish an item like this. Go to a printer and there’s economy of scale in producing something like this, and that’s [glossy] where we ended up. We started printing locally initially and then moved to a larger out-of-state printer.
When you say lighter articles, explain what you have in mind.
Well, I think it really comes down to the difference between academic, footnoted articles and good, quality, critical stories about Nevada’s history. The latter is what we’re interested in doing. We didn’t want to retread what had already been done. We don’t have many articles about gunfights on the main street and ghost towns. … We wanted to do articles and stories about Nevada that were different. [Things that] people might have wondered about Nevada history or they hadn’t thought about at all, like the lead article in our current issue is about Elvis Presley’s first appearance in Las Vegas in ’56 when he was not favorably received. That’s just one example. … It’s not error free. That bothers me more than anything else. Typographically and factually, errors crop up, and I don’t like it as a historian.
What articles pleased you the most?
That’s difficult to say because I liked most of them. … The ones closest to my heart actually are the ones dealing with the Nevada brewing industry. Bob Nylen and I have been working on a history of the Nevada brewing industry for a couple of decades now, and we did one issue back in 2011 on beer in Nevada—an article on the brew pub revolution in Nevada and an article about the first brewery on the Comstock. Both of those are presenting new material. Both those are examples, right offhand, of things I really liked. We had an article by Carolyn Eichen on burlesque performances on stage in the late 19th century in Virginia City. We had [former state film office director] Robin Holabird do a feature on Nevada science fiction films that were either set here or filmed here. That worked out quite well. … There’s just a few articles I haven’t cared much for at all, but I’d say 95 percent of them I think were pretty good.
Have you developed a stable of writers or are you still looking for writers?
We have a number of writers who have written several articles for us. One would be Jim Hulse, one of the leading historians in the state. In fact, we have an article [by Hulse] on Highway 93, a trip down Highway 93, in our current issue. Bob Stewart of Carson City writes about early Nevada, the territorial period. … So we have some repeat authors, but we’re always looking for new material.