William Demby

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William Demby
Born William Demby
(1922-12-25)December 25, 1922
Pittsburgh, US
Died May 23, 2013(2013-05-23) (aged 90)
Sag Harbor, US
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Period 1950–2013
Notable works Beetlecreek; The Catacombs; Love Story Black
Notable awards Anisfield-Wolf's 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award

Lucia Drudi (1953 – 1995 her death)

Barbara Morris (2004 – his death)

William Demby (December 25, 1922 – May 23, 2013) was an African American writer. His works include Beetlecreek (1950), The Catacombs (1965), and Love Story Black (1978).[1]


William Demby was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Dec 25, 1922. His family later moved to Clarksburg, West Virginia. He studied briefly at West Virginia State University but was drafted into an African-American cavalry unit that was deployed to North Africa and Italy during World War Two. During his military service he contributed to the Army publication Stars and Stripes.[citation needed]

After the war he graduated from Fisk University in Nashville in 1947. That same year, he moved to Rome, where he met writer Lucia Drudi, whom he married in 1953. The couple had a son, James Gabriele Demby, in 1955, who composes and teaches music in Italy. Lucia Drudi died in 1995.

During his decades living in Rome, Demby worked for many important Italian film directors, among them Federico Fellini, translating Italian screenplays and films into English. He was assistant director of dialogue on Roberto Rossellini's film Europa 51 starring Ingrid Bergman. He also wrote for various American magazines, among them The Reporter.

In Italy, he wrote his first, existentialist, novel, Beetlecreek (1950), and then his second, more experimental novel, The Catacombs (1965).

Later in life, he reconnected with Barbara Morris, whom he knew from his time at Fisk University. Morris was a former lawyer with NAACP, and the two married in 2004.

Demby began teaching English in 1969 at the College of Staten Island (CUNY), where he worked until the late 1980s. Demby published his third novel, Love Story Black, in 1978 on Reed, Cannon and Johnson. He returned to Italy often, spending time in Rome, and in a villa in Tuscany, where he lived for nearly a decade from the late 80s until the late 90s. Demby spent his final years in Sag Harbor, NY.

In 2006, Demby was honored with the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for lifetime achievement.

His last novel, King Comus, was finished in 2007, but remains unpublished.

William Demby died in Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York, on May 23, 2013.


  1. Beetlecreek, 1950
  2. The Catacombs, 1965
  3. Love Story Black, 1978
  4. Blueboy, 1980
  5. King Comus, 2007 (unpublished)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "William Demby, Author of Experimental Novels, Dies at 90". The New York Times. May 31, 2013. 

External links[edit]