2000 Notable Authors

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Jane Hamilton
Ben Hecht
Kathleen Krull

Jane Hamilton, 1957-

Jane Hamilton’s life and writing are firmly rooted in the American Midwest. After growing up in Oak Creek, Illinois, she attended and graduated from Carleton College in Minnesota. Instead of taking a position in New York City with a publishing firm, she decided to help out friends in an apple orchard in Wisconsin. On this apple orchard, she would come to fall in love with the owner, eventually marry him and raise two children. Also on this apple orchard, Jane Hamilton would become part of this southern Wisconsin community and become a very successful and influential writer of contemporary American fiction.

In her first novel, The Book of Ruth, an intelligent child must cope with poverty, abandonment, and lack of love and cultural depravation. Yet, young Ruth overcomes her depressing circumstances and begins to learn to forgive and love. Alice Howard, the young wife and mother in Jane Hamilton’s second novel, A Map of the World, never is accepted or understood by her neighbors. After six years of living in the community, she is still considered “different.” After a young child Alice is watching drowns, perhaps from her negligence, she truly becomes a scapegoat and an outsider. Her third and most recent book, Short History of a Prince, also has a troubled protagonist. The book is about Walter who comes from an ideal suburban family, is passionate about life and ballet, but yet has to deal with the issues of a dying brother and a growing realization that he is gay. In spite of tragedy, lost love, and failed dreams, Walter keeps his integrity and accepts his life on his own terms.

In each of her novels, Jane Hamilton has painstakingly developed incisive, subtle, and perceptive portraits of people who must deal with moral and emotional dilemmas. The many facets of her characters and their struggles to deal with what life has given them are always told in carefully chosen and controlled prose. Hamilton’s protagonists, although their experiences are painful, are always able to accept themselves and eventually find hope.

The national literary world has seen the talent of Jane Hamilton with the arrival of her first book. Suzanne Berne, in Belles Lettres, calls The Book of Ruth “a breathtaking book, precise and beautiful in its language, full of sharp wisdom.” New York Times critic Michiko describes Hamilton’s writing in A Map of the World, “as highly tuned literary writing” and admires her eye for emotional detail and her expert manipulation of point of view. Vival-Hardigg in the U.S. News and World Report says that Hamilton “shares E.B. White’s gift of making the reader believe with utter abandon.” Jane Hamilton does make one accept her world, as she skillfully draws her characters and her readers into a well-written net of empathy, shared pain, caring, and understanding.

Selected Bibliography:

The Book of Ruth, Ticknor & Fields, 1988
Map of the World, Doubleday, 1994
Short History of a Prince, Random House, 1998

Ben Hecht, 1894-1964

Ben Hecht, journalist, novelist, playwright and Academy Award winning screenwriter, was born to Russian emigrants in New York City on February 28, 1894. His family soon moved to Racine, Wisconsin, where he graduated from high school.

Refusing to attend college, he landed a job as a reporter on the Chicago Journal and soon moved to the Chicago Daily News. These years writing for the Chicago newspapers proved to be the defining element in Hecht’s career. It was here that Hecht became known for his gritty “human interest” sketches depicting the hard life and tough characters of Chicago’s back streets. Many critics consider his collection of short stories, 1000 Afternoons in Chicago, to be his best book. His flamboyant, ironic, cynical style earned him the title of “Pagliacci of the fire escape.”

In 1924, Hecht moved back to New York City to concentrate on writing for the stage. His collaboration with Charles MacArthur produced his best known book, Front Page. This irreverent and melodramatic tale of newspaper life is considered to be the classic tale of hard-boiled reporters whose sole ambition is to get the “Big Story” amidst an atmosphere of cigar smoke, typewriter clatter and shouts of “Hold the Presses.”

Although he was the author or co-author of nearly 300 books, short stories and plays, Hecht will probably be best remembered for his writing of over sixty screenplays for Hollywood. His talent in writing for Hollywood was recognized with two Academy Awards for his screenplays of Underworld in 1924, and The Scoundrel in 1927.

Ben Hecht died in New York City, April 18, 1964.

Selected Bibliography:

Erik Dorn, Putnam, 1921
Fantazius Mallare, Covici-McGee, 1922
Florentine Dagger, Boni and Liveright, 1923

The Front Page, 1928
Twentieth Century, 1932
(Both in collaboration with Charles MacArthur)

Short Stories and sketches:
1001 Afternoons in Chicago, Covici-McGee, 1922
Tales of Chicago Streets, Haldeman-Julius, 1924
Collected Stories of Ben Hecht, Crown, 1945

A Child of the Century, (An autobiography), Simon and Schuster, 1954
Charlie, (A biography of Charles MacArthur),
 Harper, 1957
Gaily, Gaily, (Correspondence and reminiscences), Doubleday, 1963

Kathleen Krull, 1952-

Kathleen Krull has written that as a child she thought books were the most important things in the world. The author of more than 50 fiction and nonfiction books for children, Kathleen says her wish is to create books that will mean as much to others as books have meant to her.

Kathleen Krull was born in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and grew up in Wilmette, Illinois. She is the oldest of four children and has three younger brothers. As a child, she loved to read, and her family made weekly visits to the library. Her favorite genres were fantasy and mystery, but she also enjoyed historical fiction, biographies, and adventure stories. Kathleen’s reading soon led to an interest in writing. One of her earliest works, Hairdos and People I Know was written in fifth grade. Kathleen took piano lessons and later taught herself violin and viola. She appeared in recitals, played the organ at church, and gave piano lessons to neighborhood children.

While at Lawrence University in Appleton, Kathleen majored in English and minored in music. She worked as an editor at Harper & Row, Western Publishing/Golden Books in Racine, Raintree Publishers, and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Her first books were published by Western when she was 22. She also authored a book in the Trixie Belden mystery series under the Kathyrn Kenny pseudonym.

Two of Kathleen’s best known non-fiction titles incorporate her love of music. Her book, Gonna Sing My Head Off!, is a collection of 62 American folk songs which she arranged in keys that are easily sung by children. Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought) briefly describes everyday and humorous experiences in the lives of twenty composers.

The “Lives of” series now includes titles on writers, artists, athletes, and presidents. She writes that biographies are a way for children to learn about themselves and how others overcome difficulties can put one’s own troubles in perspective.

Kathleen Krull lives in San Diego with her husband, illustrator Paul Brewer.

Selected Bibliography:

Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought), Harcourt, 1993

Gonna Sing My Head Off!, American Folk Songs for Children, Knopf, 1992

Maria Molina and the Days of the Dead, Macmillan, 1994

It’s My Earth Too: How I Can Help the Earth Stay Alive, Doubleday, 1992

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman, Harcourt, 1996

Wish You Were Here: Emily’s Guide to the 50 States, Doubleday, 1997

They Saw the Future: Psychics, Oracles, Scientists, Great Thinkers, and Pretty Good Guessers, Atheneum, 1999