Spur Award Nomination

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Fort Zion by Robert L. Foster has been nominated for the prestigious 2006 Spur Award. The Spur Award, first initiated in 1953 is one of the oldest and most prestigious in American literature. The award is given annually by Western Writers of America for best western novel, best historical novel, and best nonfiction. Previous winners of the Spur Award include Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove, Michael Blake for Dances With Wolves, Glendon Swarthout of the Shootist and Tony Hillerman for Skinwalker.

Fort Zion is Robert Foster’s first historical novel. The book is a fictional account of the first wagon train of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) to immigrate to the Great Basin in present day Salt Lake City, Utah in 1844. In the mid-nineteenth century, members of the Mormon Church in New York suffered religious persecution, which forced them to seek refuge on the frontier, first in Ohio, then Missouri, and finally, Nauvoo, Illinois. With every passing day, however, it was evident that to live in safety and to have religious freedom, they would have to keep moving westward. These hardy pioneers eventually migrated across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains to the Great Basin. Many who made the long trek were from the British Isles, their journey starting with a three month crossing of the northern Atlantic.

"Fort Zion" opens with Joseph Smith, leader of the Mormon people, struggling with the difficult decision of whether to lead the Mormons farther westward away from the persecution and violence experienced in Nauvoo and other Mormon settlements, or to endure the increasing hostility from non-Mormons directed at those who sought to practice their faith. In 1844, Smith organizes a secret Wagon Train of volunteers to travel to the Great Salt Lake to determine if that remote area would be far enough away from religious persecution to live peaceably and whether the area was suitable for the 20,000 Mormons who would follow to build their homes and raise their families.

In Fort Zion, the author gives the reader an accurate portrayal of Mormon life in the 1840s and the issues surrounding the Mormon migration to Utah. He also adds conflict and adventure to the story as the first Mormon Wagon Train, led by a non-Mormon ex army officer and Mountain Man, travels across the Plains on what would later become known as the Mormon Trail.

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Sue Schrems