Although the title may sound uncannily appropriate to a children's book, in fact, The Brave Cowboy is very much a book for parents and other grown-up enamored with the mythology of the Old West. Abbey’s second novel reveals a considerable aptitude for improving on the mechanics of writing as it is less episodic and more tightly plotted than Jonathan Troy, published two years earlier. After publishing two novels in two years, Abbey would n produce another book-length work of fiction until 1962.
In addition to being a mature work structurally, The Brave Cowboy find the author setting purposeful and devoted to completing of a task that has overwhelmed attempts to publish a sophomore novel. Like many first time novelists going for that proof they are not one-trick pony, Abbey found the actual of writing The Brave Cowboy far more of an effort and something less than the call to inspiration that writing Jonathan Troy—and others to come—more flat out fun. The fundamental difference at play? The protagonist of The Brave Cowboy—the character he would be spending most time with—was not a semi-autobiographical persona of himself. The character was based on a friend of his named Ralph Newcombe though Abbey was not experiencing the same kind of kick any writer gets when basing it upon himself, he remained steadfastly committed to proving he was a writer capable of actually creating a hero who not just a glorified version of his own better nature. He succeeded admirably where writers far more famous than he has stumbled and given up.
A film version retitled Lonely are the Brave became one of the first screenplays to which Dalton Trumbo was legally able to get on-screen credit following return from the wasteland of being on the blacklist as part of the Hollywood Ten.