I disagree with the claim that Ambrose Bierce was a "minor" writer. In fact, during his heyday near the turn of the previous century he was ranked with Mark Twain, although he lacked Twain's ability to complete a novel. Bierce's writings were voluminous. In my own library is a twelve-volume set of Bierce's collected work: essays, articles, poetry, fiction. Much of it is topical (he was a journalist, after all) and thus out of date. But still being read are his brilliantly executed Civil War stories (Bierce was the only writer who fought in the Civil War to successfully write fiction about it, and Stephen Crane wasn't born until 1871.), supernatural and horror tales, his doggerel, and his famous Devil's Dictionary.
Doggerel such as: "Here the remains of Schyler Colfax lie; / Born, all the world knows when, and God knows why." (Colfax was vice president of the United States under U.S. Grant.)
The names of some of Bierce's contemporaries remain familiar: Jack London, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, H.L. Mencken, Willa Cather, O.Henry. But other Bierce contemporaries, many famous in their time, are virtually unheard of and unread today: George Ade, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, James Lane Allen, Gertrude Atherton, Irving Bacheller, John Kendrick Bangs, Edward Bellamy, H.C. Bunner, John Esten Cooke, George William Curtis, Bret Harte (outside of a couple of mining camp stories), George Sterling, Charles Warren Stoddard, Joaquin Miller.
Bierce wrote of himself: "My! how my fame rings out in ever zone -- / A thousand critics shouting: "He's unknown!"
Some of you know that I'm the proprietor of a definitive web site devoted to Ambrose Bierce: THE AMBROSE BIERCE SITE. From the site's Bierce Chronology I pulled the following events celebrating Bierce since 2002:
2002 — Saint Ambrose, opera composed by Rodney Waschka premiers in Chicago.
March-April 2002 — Rob Foster's two-act play, "Last Stand of Ambrose Bierce," premiers in Carmel, California.
Feb 2002 — Jacob Silverstein in Harper's Magazine reports an elderly native of Marfa, Texas, learned second-hand that Bierce died of pneumonia and was buried in a common grave in a Marfan cemetery. Improbable.
Mar 2002 — Kronos Quartet and the American Conservatory Theater premier an opera in San Francisco based on the Bierce story "The Difficulty of Crossing a Field."
May 2002 — World premier of "The Mocking Bird," an opera based on a Bierce story, composed by Thea Musgrave. Boston Musica Viva.
Jun 2002 — Ohio Bicentennial Commission first puts on hold plan to honor Bierce with a historical marker after dispute over his birthsite, but finds sufficient evidence to proceed with the project.
Aug 21, 2002 — "Bitter Bierce," Mac Wellman's mixed-media version of Bierce's life and works, debuts in New York.
2003 — A Much Misunderstood Man: Selected Letters of Ambrose Bierce, edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ohio State University Press (Columbus, OH).
2003 -- Graphic Classics issues an illustrated collection of Bierce stories in comic-strip form by more than 40 such artists, such as Gahan Wilson.
Jun 21, 2003 — Premier of a new film version of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," Ann Arbor, Michigan. Directed by Brian James Egen.
Nov 6, 2003 — Dedication of the first formal recognition of Ambrose Bierce: a marker on the grounds of Eastern High School, Route 7, Meigs County, Ohio, near his birth place. Earlier, a plaque was placed at the close by historic Chester Courthouse to honor Bierce.
Aug 2004 — Retired priest James Lienert erects a gravestone to Bierce in Sierra Mojada, Coahuila, Mexico, where Lienert draws upon local lore to theorize Bierce is buried in the local cemetery.
Mar 2005 — Principal photography completed on Mike Barton's independent short film "The Eyes of the Panther," based on a Bierce short story.
Oct 2005 — Don Maxwell's short film version of Bierce's "One Kind of Officer," scheduled for release in 2006, is previewed in Kansas City.
Oct 2005 — Cover story, Civil War Times.
It's remarkable that Bierce is still being read and his stories are being filmed and turned into operas. And Oakley Hall recently published the third in a series of mysteries in which Bierce is the sleuth. My automatic Google Search fills my mail several times a day with news articles quoting or referring to Bierce. Not bad for a "minor" writers of the 19th century.