Theodore Taylor (author)
June 23, 1921|
Statesville, North Carolina, U.S.
|Died||October 26, 2006
Laguna Beach, California, U.S.
Theodore Taylor (June 23, 1921, Statesville, North Carolina, USA – October 26, 2006, Laguna Beach, California, USA) was an American author of more than 50 fiction and non-fiction books for young adult readers, including The Cay, The Weirdo (winner of the 1992 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery), Ice Drift, Timothy of the Cay, The Bomb, Sniper, and Rogue Wave.
Taylor died on October 26, 2006 in Laguna Beach, CA, from complications of a heart attack.
The Cay, Taylor's story of a racially prejudiced white boy stranded with a black man, has become perhaps the most beloved of his young adult novels. It took only three weeks to complete, and has seen worldwide sales in the millions. Taylor based the character of the boy in his book on a childhood playmate. "The one thing I remembered about [him] was that his mother had taught him to hate black people and to hate them with a passion," Taylor once told a reporter from the Los Angeles Times. In the book, the boy sheds his racist views as he learns to admire and respect the black man who rescues him from the ocean, especially after he goes blind. For a short period of time The Cay was banned and was classified as racist.
Taylor was born in North Carolina and thought of himself as strongly rooted in that quiet "red clay" country by the Catawba River, though he has worked and lived in many places around the world. He began writing at the age of thirteen, covering high school sports events for the Portsmouth, Virginia, Evening Star. Leaving home at seventeen to join the Washington, D.C. Daily News as a copyboy, he discovered the highly educational aspects of living on $11 a week. "Thank God my boarding house was only a dollar a day." Two years later he was writing radio network sports for NBC, in New York.
During World War II, he first served as a cadet-AB seaman on a gasoline tanker, first of four merchant ships; then became a naval officer in the Pacific Theater. He was recalled to active duty a few months after the Korean War began, stationed in the Caribbean.
In 1955, a year after his first book, The Magnificent Mitscher, Taylor joined Paramount Pictures as a press agent; then became a story editor, finally, associate producer. "Often exciting, often insane, film work provided opportunity to work with some interesting and unique people — Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, William Holden, Steve McQueen, Charlton Heston, Raquel Welch, and others, on seventeen major pictures." Following the filming of TORA! TORA! TORA!, he turned full-time to novels, non-fiction books and screen plays.
The Cay, winner of 11 literary awards, including the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, "...of which I’m the proudest, since the book was deemed worthy of being on a shelf with Alice In Wonderland...", was a Universal film presentation starring James Earl Jones. Now in print in 14 foreign countries, the story of young "Phillip" and old "Timothy" has passed 5,000,000 copies in publication, worldwide. By the time of his death he was the father of 3 children.
The Maldonado Miracle and The Teetoncey Trilogy, chronicling the remote, quaint Outer Banks of North Carolina, quickly followed the success of The Cay. Among his titles are Sniper, Maria, The Hostage, The Weirdo, winner of the 1992 Edgar Allan Poe Award; Sweet Friday Island, another suspense story.
In Autumn, 1993, Timothy Of The Cay, prequel-sequel to the original tale of survival and prejudice was published by Harcourt Brace. The 24-year gap between the novels was caused by Taylor’s reluctance to attempt "topping himself."
In 1946, Taylor participated in Operations Crossroads, the testing of two atomic bombs at Bikini Atoll, in the Western Pacific. Out of that experience came The Bomb, story of the world’s first nuclear nomads, published autumn, 1995. The Bomb won the 1996 Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction.
Rogue Wave and Other Red-Blooded Sea Stories followed The Bomb. The Flight of Jesse Leroy Brown, the story of the Navy’s first Afro-American carrier pilot was published in Autumn, 1998.
His adult books covered a wide variety of subjects — a Broadway composer to Sirhan Sirhan’s assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy to the pastoral life of a Basque shepherd. The Cats of Shambala, written with actress Tippi Hedren, provided the researchies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, Argosy, Alfred Hitchcock’s Magazine and others."
- The Magnificent Mitscher (1955)
- The Cay (1969)
- The Children's Life (1971)
- The Maldonado Miracle (1973)
- Teetoncey (1974)
- Teetoncey and Ben O'Neal (1975)
- The Trouble With Tuck (1981)
- The Hostage (1988)
- The Stalker (1988)
- Sweet Friday Island (1984)
- Monocolo (1989)
- H.M.S. Hood Vs Bismarck (1989)
- Sniper (1989)
- Tuck Triumphant (1990)
- The Really odd Weirdo (1991)
- To Kill the Leopard (1993)
- Maria: a Christmas Story (1993)
- Timothy of the Cay (1993)
- Walking Up a Rainbow (1994)
- Rogue Wave: And Other Red-Blooded Sea Stories (1998)
- Air Raid – Pearl Harbor! (2001)
- A Sailor Returns (2002)
- The Boy Who Could Fly Without A Motor (2002)
- Lord of the Kill (2004)
- Billy the Kid (2005)
- Ice Drift (2005)
- Battle in the Arctic Seas (2006)
- The Bomb (2007)
- The Flight of Leroy Brown (2006)
- Adam Bernstein (October 30, 2006). "Obituary: Theodore Taylor, 85; Author of 'The Cay'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- Theodore Taylor's website
- Stewart, Jocelyn. (2006, October 28). "Theodore Taylor, 85; wrote 'The Cay' and other novels for the young." The Los Angeles Times