John Jakes, best-selling author of historical novels, dies at 90

John Jacques, whose racial stories during the American Revolution and Civil War sold millions of copies and earned him the title “Godfather of Historical Fiction,” died March 11 at a hospital near his home in Sarasota, Fla. . He was 90 years old. .

His literary agent, Frank R. Curtis, confirmed his client’s death but gave no specific cause.

Mr. Jacques published more than 80 books in a variety of genres, including science fiction and fantasy, but his deeply researched historical novels — more than a dozen New York Times bestsellers — were the works that brought him commercial success. , brought extraordinary wealth, and backhanded compliments. From the critics

“John Jacques does not give us memorable passages,” said the Christian Science Monitor in a 1982 review of the author. “North and South” Trilogy On the Civil War. “But he gives us a fascinating story that keeps us reading.” A book reviewer for the Chicago Tribune once called his historical descriptions “solid and memorable” but said that “Jacques’ writing has no poetry, no subtlety.”

Mr. Jacques admitted that his motives were not literary. Rather, he sought to entertain and educate readers who might buy his novels at Kmart without knowing anything about the period of American history they were dramatizing. For many readers, Mr. Jacques knew that his books were the only source of history.

“Sue me for not being Flaubert,” he told People magazine.

Mr. Jacques was struggling to make a living as a writer in the early 1970s when he “The BastardThe first installment of an eight-volume saga about seven generations of the legendary Kent family. The series, known as the Kent Family Chronicles, begins during the American Revolution and goes through other important historical events, including the War of 1812 and the fight for Texas independence.

He eventually sold more than 55 million copies of Kent’s books. There was a TV miniseries. And readers demanded more.

Mr. Jacques then turned to the Civil War, writing a trilogy centered on two families – the Maines, who owned enslaved people, and the Dangers, who were Pennsylvania industrialists. It also became a TV miniseries. Other historical novels quickly followed, including “The Crowns Family Saga“A two-volume story about a German immigrant family trying to make it in 20th-century America.

“The prose style is well-known, but so was Theodore Dreiser’s,” Carolyn C. wrote of the story in the Washington Post. These John Jacques books are history lessons, filled with names, dates, fashions, foods, cruise boats, afternoon walks, gaslights, coal lamps and extra-bright electric chandeliers. People are always getting in and out of cars, getting in and out of cars – it’s very relaxing, and you’ll soon have the faint illusion that you’re learning something. “

John William Jacques was born on March 31, 1932 in Chicago. His father used to drive a truck and later became an executive of the Railway Express Agency. His mother was a teacher. John did not excel at sports, and was “always the last to be picked for the baseball team,” he said. told Post. “It is painful.”

Encouraged by his mother, John Gooda was an avid reader of magazines and science fiction. He wrote for his high school newspaper and acted in school plays. Greencastle, Ind. As a sophomore at DePauw University, he sold a short story to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction about a man being chased by a demonic electric toaster.

Mr. Jacques married Rachel Payne in 1951. After graduating from DePauw in 1953, he earned a master’s degree in American literature from The Ohio State University the following year. He earned a doctorate but dropped out because he “couldn’t separate a sentence,” he later said.

Mr. Jacques worked as a copywriter for advertising agencies and a pharmaceutical company. At night, he wrote short stories—mysteries, westerns, and science fiction—and published more than 200 of them. In 1971, Mr. Jacques quit his job to write full time, publishing short stories and books in several genres.

Although he was prolific, commercial success was elusive.

“I had reached a really low point in my career as a writer,” he told The Post. “I thought I had come to the end of the road. My stuff wasn’t selling.”

In 1973, an editor and book packager for whom Mr. Jacques had previously written put out a call looking for someone to write a multi-volume historical series to coincide with the 1976 bicentennial celebrations. Mr. Jacques undertook the work, which eventually became eight volumes. Kent Family Chronicles.

“So at such a crazy twist of fate,” Mr. Jacques told Post, “Do Careers Rise and Fall?”

His advances for Crowns’ books grew from thousands to millions and then to more than 10 million dollars.

Survivors include his wife of 71 years; three daughters, Andrea Jacques of Jacksonville, Fla., Ellen Jacques Kellum of Santa Rosa, Calif., Victoria Jacques Montgomery of Columbia, S.C.; a son, J. Michael Jacques of McLean, Va.; 11 grandchildren; and two grandchildren.

After Mr. Jacques’ novels hit the best-seller lists in the 1970s, “an accountant advised me to celebrate my newfound wealth by buying myself a present,” he wrote in an autobiographical essay. wrote “At Gucci on Fifth Avenue, I splurged for a briefcase, black leather, brass hooks and familiar red and green stripes. It cost $100.”

He also bought a Cadillac Seville, which he later traded in for a Mercedes – much to the chagrin of his critics.

“I still use the briefcase, which is well worn,” he wrote. “It remains a powerful symbol.”

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