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John Jakes

Bio: John Jakes is the acknowledged contemporary master of the family saga. He is the creator of the Kent Family Chronicles, The North and South Trilogy, and Homeland. His latest novel, On Secret Service, marks his return to the American Civil War. His devotion to strong storytelling, impeccable research and historical accuracy has won him a worldwide audience, as well as praise for being “the godfather of the historical novel” and “America’s history teacher.” Born in Chicago in 1932, Jakes began writing professionally during his freshman year at Northwestern University, where he was studying acting. He made the trade from the stage to the typewriter at age 18 when he sold his first story for $25. He enrolled in the creative writing program at DePauw University, graduated in 1953 and a year later earned an M.A. degree in American literature from Ohio State University. In March of 1973, Jakes began work on the first of eight volumes of the Kent Family Chronicles, a series depicting American history through the lives of a fictional family. The series quickly went on to become a bestseller, and in 1975, Jakes became the first author ever to have three books on the New York Times Best-seller list in a single year, thanks to the success of all eight volumes of his Chronicles. Jakes holds honorary doctorates from five universities, and in 1995 he received the National Cowboy Hall of Fame’s Western Heritage Literary Award, as well as a dual Celebrity and Citizen’s Award from the White House Conference on Libraries and Information. In 1996, he became the tenth living inductee to the South Carolina Academy of Authors and the following year, he received the Professional Achievement Award of the Ohio State University Alumni Association. In 1998, the South Carolina Humanities Association awarded him its highest honor for Career Achievement and support of the humanities. From 1989 to 1996, Jakes was a Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of South Carolina. Despite his decision to write rather than act, Jakes is still an active member of the theatre, having performed, directed, and written original plays and musicals. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Authors Guild, American P.E.N., and Western Writers of America. He also serves on the board of the Authors Guild Foundation. Jakes and his wife Rachel have four children and eleven grandchildren. They divide their time between homes in South Carolina and Connecticut. Further information about John Jakes can be found at his website, www.johnjakes.com.

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