Friday, September 7, 2012

Taylor Caldwell wrote historical fiction

Taylor Caldwell
It is the birthday of prolific novelist Taylor Caldwell (1900), who wrote popular historical fiction and family sagas for four decades. Her first book, and among her best known, was Dynasty of Death (1938), the sweeping saga of two families who develop their small Pennsylvania munitions factory into a huge international company.

Two other books, The Final Hour (1944) and The Eagles Gather (1949) continue the story of the Bouchard family. There was quite a stir among the reading public when it became known that Taylor Caldwell was a woman.

Her editor was Maxwell Perkins, the famed literary editor who nurtured the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Zora Neale Hurston, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe.

Caldwell wrote many of her earliest books with her second husband, who was a colleague with her at the Department of Justice in Buffalo, New York. Her husband, Marcus Reback, did the research for her historical novels. She wrote mostly at night, sometimes from 12 to 24 hours at a stretch.

Caldwell was an outspoken conservative and contributed to the John Birch Society's magazine, American Opinion. She believed that the income tax was unconstitutional and created by international bankers to destroy dissidents. She thought that President John F. Kennedy revealed that he knew too much when he spoke of "the Gnomes of Zurich."

Some critics have suggested that Joseph Armagh, the hero in Captains and Kings: The Story of an American Dynasty (1972), was modeled after Joseph Kennedy. The book tells the story of a penniless Irish immigrant who comes to America in the mid-1800s and becomes a wealthy business leader. Captains and Kings and several other Caldwell books were adapted into TV miniseries.

Caldwell wrote more than 43 novels over 43 years. Many of them became bestsellers. She suffered a stroke in 1979, the same year she signed a two-novel deal for $3.9 million. She couldn't speak but she could still write. She died in 1985.

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