NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR
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Michael Shaara was born in 1928 in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of Italian immigrants ("Shaara" was originally spelled "Sciarra"). He graduated from Rutgers University and it was during his college days that he knew his one goal was to become a writer.
In the early 1950's, Michael published a number of award-winning science-fiction short stories in the most popular pulp magazines of the day. He later began writing straight fiction, and published more than 70 short stories in such magazines as Playboy, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, The Saturday Evening Post, and many others. Two of his stories were produced as television dramas in the late 1950's.
Moving his wife Helen and young son Jeff to Florida in the mid-1950's, he began to teach English, literature and creative writing at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Soon after, his daughter, Lila was born.
Always a writer first, and a teacher second, Michael continued to write short stories, but always he knew there was a larger work to be pursued. Throughout the early 1960's he worked on his first novel, a deeply brooding story of a soldier who returns home from the Korean War and becomes a prizefighter. In 1968, The Broken Place was published by New American Library. While critics admired the style and the content of the book, it was a commercial disappointment. Though hit hard by the lack of public interest in The Broken Place, Michael's drive to write continued. Reflecting on an extraordinary experience with his family visiting the battlefield at Gettysburg, Michael became obsessed with telling the story of that momentous event through the eyes of the main characters themselves, something that had never been done. After seven years, the manuscript for The Killer Angels was completed. Teaching during the day, writing late into the night, relying on a steady dose of cigarettes and coffee, Michael's lifestyle, and his deep involvement with his story took a toll. In 1965 he suffered a major heart attack, at only 36 years of age.
To Michael's disappointment, The Killer Angels was rejected by the first fifteen publishers who saw the manuscript. Finally, in 1973, it was bought by the small independent publisher, The David McKay Company, who was subsequently bought by Random House. Michael's second novel received very little attention, and mixed reviews, thus it was a shock to both Michael and the literary community when the announcement was made that The Killer Angels had been awarded the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
But the disappointment continued. The Killer Angels never enjoyed commercial success, and to Michael's dismay, it seemed that there was very little audience for a personalized story of our nation's most horrible chapter. His writing veered off in different directions. Always active in the turbulent political climate that surrounded Florida State University in the 1960s, Michael penned a novel that focused on a violent confrontation between radical students and the "establshment". Though beautifully written, the novel never ofund a publisher. Then, after suffering the effects of a devastating motorcycle accident, Michael struggled to maintain the quality of his writing, and was able to publish one more novel, The Herald in 1981. But that book never found an audience, and Michael changed course again, writing a baseball novel, that, to his enormous dismay, no one in New York wanted to publish.
After a prolonged decline in his health, Michael suffered his second heart attack, this one fatal. On May 5, 1988, the long and often frustrating writing career of Michael Shaara ended. However, the legacy of his work did not die with the author. Five years later, the film "Gettysburg" was released, propelling The Killer Angels to number one on the New York Times Bestseller List (19 years after its publication!). And, rediscovering the manuscript of the baseball story in Michael's files, his two children secured an agent who presented it again to the New York publishing community. Carroll & Graf published it in 1991. Titled For Love of the Game, the wonderful story was optioned by Universal Studios, and was released in theaters September 1999 as a major motion picture starring Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston.
With the success of Jeff Shaara's first two Civil War novels (Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure), which create bookends for the classic The Killer Angels, Ballantine released this trilogy in a boxed set. Now, with the publication of Lila Shaara's first two novels (Every Secret Thing and The Fortune Teller's Daughter), the father and his children are linked for all time.Thus does the author's legacy continue for future generations.
As Seen on "HISTORY CHANNEL"
The Killer Angels is considered by many to be the best Civil War novel ever written. It was a national bestseller, earned the 1975 Pulitzer Prize, and was the basis for the popular film "Gettysburg." Yet little is known about the book's author Michael Shaara.
This video traces the highlights of Shaara's dramatic and multifaceted life, from his promising youth in Jersey City to his stints as a paratrooper, amateur boxer, policeman and teacher...from the triumph of winning the Pulitzer Prize to the tragedy of a motor cycle accident that left him brain damaged until his untimely death in 1988.
Through unprecedented access to the Shaara family archives and intimate interviews with Shaara's widow, Helen, his daughter, Lila and son, Jeff, this documentary offers personal insights into the man who brought the battle of Gettysburg to life for millions of readers. This program is must viewing for anyone who is a Civil War buff, a reader of classic literature or a lover of American family sagas.
This 60 minute VHS documentary is narrated by distinguished actor Kevin Conway and produced by Greystone Communications Group, Inc.
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