Wayne Overholser was born on September 4, 1906, in Pomeroy, Washington, the youngest of four children of pioneer parents. He was raised in the Willamette Valley, and most of his early education was in a one-room schoolhouse. After college, he began his teaching career, which lasted 19 years. In the summers between 1927 and 1934, taking one year off in the middle, he earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Washington.
In a botany class, he met Evaleth Miller, with whom he later eloped. He had been interested in creative writing for many years, but all his attempts to sell stories were met with rejection until a writing course taught in 1935 by E. Douglas Branch and Robert Penn Warren. In the fall of the next year, he sold his first story, to Popular Western . Each year that followed he sold more stories.
In 1942 he, Evaleth, and their young son moved to Bend, Oregon, where he began teaching high school. In 1945, his first novel, Buckaroo's Code, was published. This success, along with being the father of two sons, led to his decision to quit teaching and begin writing full time. The family moved to Colorado in the late 1940's, and a third son was born. He also shifted his attention from pulp magazines to novels, sensing that the magazines were declining in popularity. Over 100 of his novels were published, many made into films, and two received Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America.
He wrote under his own name and various pseudonyms, including John S. Daniels, Lee Leighton, Dan J. Stevens, and Joseph Wayne. He died in Boulder, Colorado, on August 27, 1996.
From the guide to the Land of Promises typescript by Wayne D. Overholser, circa 1962, (University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. Special Collections Dept.)