Thomas Williams (writer)

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Thomas Williams
Thomas Williams (writer).jpg
Born(1926-11-15)November 15, 1926
Duluth, Minnesota, United States
DiedOctober 23, 1990(1990-10-23) (aged 63)
Dover, New Hampshire, United States
OccupationNovelist, Short story writer
Notable worksThe Hair of Harold Roux; Leah, New Hampshire

Thomas Williams (November 15, 1926 – October 23, 1990) was an American novelist.[1] He won one U.S. National Book Award for FictionThe Hair of Harold Roux split the 1975 award with Robert Stone's Dog Soldiers[2][3][4]—and his last published novel, Moon Pinnace (1986), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.[5]

Life and work[edit]

Born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1926,[6] Williams and his family moved to New Hampshire when he was a child and he spent most of his life working and writing in that state, although he attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the University of Chicago, and studied briefly in Paris. For most of his career he taught at the University of New Hampshire, and published eight novels during his lifetime.[5] His students included among them Alice McDermott and John Irving.[7] Irving wrote an introduction to a posthumous collection of Williams's collected stories, Leah, New Hampshire (1992).[8]

Williams lived in Durham, NH and died of lung cancer at a hospital in Dover, NH when he was 63.[1]

Williams is the father of writer and novelist Ann Joslin Williams who is the author of a collection of linked stories called The Woman in the Woods, which won the 2005 Spokane Prize.[9] Joslin Williams' first novel Down From Cascom Mountain, was published in 2011. Like her father, she attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and (as of 2011) is a Professor at the University of New Hampshire.[9]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Because he'd received one of the major US book awards in 1975 and because he was admired as a university writing instructor (as some of his former students can attest), Thomas Williams was a figure of some regard during the 1970s and 1980s when it seems his reputation had reached its peak.[8] Today, Williams continues to be remembered and admired among many writers and student of the craft, but into the 21st century he remains all but unknown to the general reading public. All of his books were out of print until 2011, when The Hair of Harold Roux was reissued, sparking a renewed interest in his work.[10] Stephen King, who had earlier dedicated his 1993 story collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes to Williams, said in a 2011 interview that The Hair of Harold Roux has remained, over the years, one of his favorite books,[11] and one he returns to "again and again."[12]

Selected bibliography[edit]

I used to hang out with this guy who taught at the University of New Hampshire who was a mentor of sorts. His name was Thomas Williams [...] We often went fishing and hunting together. A good many of his friends were also writers and so when they'd get together the talk would go from rainbow trout to Eudora Welty to rough grouse. So I just kept my mouth shut. There was a lot more I was going to learn than teach in that group. Tom always said, "just say what you mean as economically as possible and get out," and that's really what I try to do with my lyrics.

Bill Morrissey, singer & songwriter[13]

  • Ceremony of Love. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill (1955)
  • Town Burning. New York: Macmillan (1959)
    • (reissue: paperback). Anchor Books, 1988. ISBN 978-0-385-24250-9
  • The Night of Trees. New York: Macmillan (1961)
    • (reissue: paperback). Ampersand Press & Small Press Distribution (1989). Introduction by John Irving. ISBN 978-0-935331-09-7
  • A High New House. New York: Dial Press (1963) – Williams received the "Dial Press Fellowship Award for Fiction" for this collection of short stories
  • Whipple's Castle: An American Novel. New York: Random House (1968)
  • The Hair of Harold Roux. New York: Random House (1974)[14]
  • Tsuga's Children. New York: Random House (1977) ISBN 0-394-49731-7
  • The Followed Man. New York, NY: Richard Marek (1978) ISBN 978-0-399-90025-9
  • Moon Pinnace. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company (1986)
Posthumous publications
  • Leah, New Hampshire: The Collected Stories of Thomas Williams. New York: William Morrow and Company (1992)
    • (Trade Paperback). Graywolf Press, 1993. Introduction by John Irving.
  • The Hair of Harold Roux. Bloomsbury USA (2011; reissue)[15] with an Introduction by Andre Dubus III, Afterword by Ann Joslin Williams. ISBN 978-1-60819-583-1

Further reading[edit]

  • Gun People (Doubleday Books, 1st Edition, 1985. ISBN 978-0-385-19193-7) – includes a profile of Williams where he discusses his interest in hunting and its relevance to his writings.


  1. ^ a b Fowler, Glenn (1990-10-25). "Thomas Williams Is Dead at 63; A Novelist and English Professor - New York Times". Retrieved 2011-07-30.
  2. ^ "National Book Awards – 1975". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-28.
    (With acceptance speech by Williams and essay by David Kirby from the Awards 61-year anniversary blog.)
  3. ^ Allard, Sam. "Thomas Williams' 'The Hair of Harold Roux' deserves a rousing readership". Retrieved 2011-07-30.
  4. ^ "The Hair of Harold Roux". Retrieved Jun 30, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Thomas Williams; Award-Winning Novelist - Los Angeles Times". 1990-11-06. Retrieved 2011-07-30.
  6. ^ "The Hair of Harold Roux by Thomas Williams". Ann Joslin Williams. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-07-30.
  7. ^ Harrigan, Jane. "Becoming John Irving". Retrieved 2011-07-30.
  8. ^ a b McIntyre, John. "Reconsidering Thomas Williams | Pif Magazine". Retrieved 2011-07-30.
  9. ^ a b "Ann Joslin Williams Homepage". Ann Joslin Williams. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-07-30.
  10. ^ "SEEING THE WORLD THROUGH BOOKS » Blog Archive » Thomas Williams–THE HAIR OF HAROLD ROUX". 2011-06-26. Retrieved 2011-07-30.
  11. ^ Parker, James (Apr 12, 2011). "Stephen King on the Creative Process, the State of Fiction, and More". The Atlantic. Retrieved Jun 30, 2020.
  12. ^ "Stephen King: By the Book". Jun 4, 2015. Retrieved Jun 30, 2020 – via
  13. ^ "Bill Morrissey, Biography: Contemporary Musicians". Retrieved 2011-07-30.
  14. ^ Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (June 3, 1974). "Fictions Within Fictions:'The Hair of Harold Roux' by Thomas Williams: book review" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-03.
  15. ^ Ulin, David L. (2011-06-19). "'The Hair of Harold Roux' by Thomas Williams: book review - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2011-07-30.

External links[edit]