Richter was born into a Lutheran family on October 13, 1890, in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. His father preached in various coal mining towns, so Richter grew up moving from place to place. Having been raised poor, Richter finished high school at age fifteen and worked at whatever he could find. When a weekly newspaper needed an editor, Richter took the position and discovered he enjoyed the job. It forced him to be concise with his words and to work with a deadline.
A couple years later he moved to Cleveland, Ohio to be a private secretary for a well-to-do family which enabled him to travel and write. The short story "Brothers of No Kin" saw publication in Forum magazine and Richter's career began slowly. After having trouble getting payment for his story, he felt discouraged and questioned himself on whether or not to be an author. However, Richter continued to pen fiction, but in order to provide for his family, he owned a small business and only wrote in his spare time. The collection of short fiction stories he authored and submitted for publication weren't well-received, and it wasn't until his wife's health required a change of climate that Richter's writing would improve significantly.
Life in New Mexico intrigued Richter, and he spent countless hours collecting information, talking to elderly residents, and gathering documents. This research led to magazine articles and then to books. Richter appreciated the settlers who had come before him, and he related their world in his stories. He recounted the past and respected the ways of the West. The Sea of Grass was published in 1937, bringing Richter into the national literary spotlight. Years later the book would be made into a film.
After writing three books based on the southwest pioneers in the late nineteenth century, Richter returned to Pennsylvania where he penned the trilogy called The Awakening Land. These novels portrayed the Ohio valley settlement with realism and respectfulness. Richter spent numerous hours researching here as well to create accurate historical fiction. The author of many articles and novels, including two autobiographical works, Richter wrote books that suited his own style and found success. One who believed in respecting the past and understanding family roots, Richter passed away from a heart attack on October 30, 1968, not far from where he had been born.
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