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ONLINE Sunbelt Spotlight: Marshal South of Ghost Mountain with Diana Lindsay

January 4, 2022 @ 11:00 am

For 17 years, from 1930 to 1947, poet, artist, and author Marshal South and his family lived on Ghost Mountain—a remote, waterless, windswept mountaintop in Blair Valley on the western edge of the Colorado Desert, now part of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Over a period of nine of those years, South chronicled his family’s controversial primitive and natural lifestyle through monthly articles written for Desert Magazine. His articles were the reality entertainment of the day—a sort of early version of Survivor with thousands of readers awaiting the next installment.

South wrote with lyric quality, painting word pictures that only a poet or artist could. He wrote with passion about the desert, its beauty and natural history, the desert’s healthful qualities, its silence and beauty, and he praised its early inhabitants and their lifestyle. He advocated a return to simplicity and a close relationship with nature.

In his lifetime Marshal wrote over 50 poems, 30 short stories and essays, 8 novels, and 102 articles and poems in Desert Magazine. His works were published in Australia, Great Britain, and the United States. He was also the poet laureate of Oceanside and received praise for his poems from Theodore Roosevelt.

South died soon after a bitter divorce. His wife lived another 50 years until 1997 and never granted an interview. With her passing, South’s son was now willing to tell the real story of what happened on Ghost Mountain. Rider South provided the introduction to the book and shared many details about the family with Diana.

Interest in the South family and book inspired filmmaker and Emmy-award winner John McDonald to create a 15-minute documentary film for the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center entitled “Ghost Mountain: An Experiment in Primitive Living.” Asked why he felt so strongly compelled to make the film, McDonald responded, “The story of Marshal South’s dream appeals to our pioneer spirit. The saga of a strong, resourceful, and resilient family surviving alone on an isolated mountaintop fascinates and inspires us, but also challenges us to evaluate our own lives and perceptions.”

Join Diana in this Sunbelt Spotlight to learn why a family chose to live in isolation and how they survived.

Diana Lindsay is the editor and has written the foreword for Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living. The book was named “Best Regional Book” at the San Diego Book Awards and also “Best Book of the Year” by the Outdoor Writers Association of California when it was first released in 2005. The book contains all of South’s articles originally published in Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948, some of his poetry, and monthly poems published in the magazine written by Tanya South. As a trained historian, Diana has ferreted out the unknown background of Marshal South and has told his never-before-known story with the publication of this book. She is the author of over a dozen award-winning books and is the co-author of the area guidebook Anza-Borrego Desert Region (6th edition 2018, Wilderness Press). Diana has a companion book entitled Marshal South Rides Again that was published in 2013 that includes two of Marshal South’s novels involving the Anza-Borrego area. The foreword on this book provides more information about South as an artist and writer. Diana is also president of Sunbelt Publications.

Sunbelt Spotlight maximum capacity is reached at 100 participants, however we do not cap registration. In the event we meet capacity, you may be unable to attend the live event despite pre-registration. We still encourage you to register if you are at all interested in one of our lectures because a recording of the presentation will be emailed to all registrants with in a week of the live event.


Sunbelt Publications, Inc.