On July 2, I received a Google Alert with the words “divorce ranch” in it. Used to getting these Google Alerts for stories about celebrity couples “divorcing” and one of them getting the “ranch,” I clicked on the link anyway and was directed to an article on RandomHouseBooks.com by Deb Caletti. She was promoting her new novel, THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, a dual narrative set in the present day and the past–a Nevada divorce ranch in 1951.
The article was illustrated with vintage photographs from The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler, a book my husband Bill and I co-authored in 2004.
Ms. Caletti is too young to have lived through the Reno divorce era and she wrote this about the research and writing of her novel:
“Bringing that time period to life, though, was trickier than I’d anticipated because of exactly what I’d found so thrilling—how little there was out there about the divorce ranches. Luckily, I discovered The Divorce Seekers, a stunning coffee table volume of photos and memories by a former dude wrangler at the famed Flying M. E. Ranch, Bill McGee. The images—with their smoky, black-and-white, retro allure—are what brought the time and place alive for me so that I could bring them [my characters] to life in the novel. Not only was it an invaluable resource for information on day-to-day life on a divorce ranch, it also set the mood. I’d open the book to an image of two sleepy roommates in the middle of their Reno cure, wearing silky chemises, drinks in hand, or to a photo of one of the gals in her party-night finery, and I’d be just where I needed to be.”-From The Six-Week Cure by Deb Caletti
We wanted to know more about Ms. Caletti. The next day, Bill and I emailed her and set up a time for a phone chat. A week later, we had a delightful conversation and Deb–as we now called her–said she was sending us a signed copy of her book. When the book arrived, it was signed and inscribed:
“For Bill & Sandra, Divorce ranch royalty! With gratitude. –Deb Caletti”.
And on page 329 of the Acknowledgments were even more kind words:
“I owe a debt of gratitude to Bill and Sandra McGee’s wonderful book The Divorce Seekers, which was an invaluable resource for information about the Nevada divorce ranches. . . . This book is a treasure if only for the photos alone—images of cowboys, the ranch, old Reno, and Moscow mule-sipping socialites in the midst of their six-week cure.”
It’s words like these that warm a researcher and writer’s heart and make the long hours, days, weeks, months and years worth it. Though a decade has passed since The Divorce Seekers was published, I love that the Reno divorce era and that unique Nevada institution—the divorce ranch—still continue to fascinate. -Sandra McGee