News From Terre Haute, Indiana


August 11, 2007

John Jakes' journey to New York Times bestseller list included boyhood years in Terre Haute

TERRE HAUTE — The last thing John Jakes felt like was a future literary icon.

He’d worked into his 40s in advertising as a copywriter and creative director. On nights and weekends, Jakes practiced his passion, writing fiction, to earn extra money for his kids’ college education. He wrote nearly 200 short stories and more than 60 books — science fiction, Westerns, mysteries, even novellas for the Man From U.N.C.L.E. magazines — “at blinding speed.”

Heavier writing projects eluded him. “I was about ready to quit,” he recalled.

Then fate intervened. His advertising career jolted to a stop when the firm lost a lucrative account.

“We lost the account, so what are you going to do?” Jakes explained of his decision to pursue writing full time. “So I thought I would do it, and a couple of years later, the Kent books came along, and the rest is history.”

Jakes was referring to the “Kent Family Chronicles,” an eight-volume series published from 1974 to ’79. Those books detailed the lives of a fictional family enduring the Revolutionary War era. With America celebrating its bicentennial during the 1970s, each installment of Jakes’ “Kent Family Chronicles” sold at least 3.5-million copies. In 1975, Jakes became the first author to have three books on the New York Times bestseller list simultaneously with the Kent volumes two, three and four.

Thirty years later, more than 55 million copies of the “Kent Family Chronicles” remain in print. So are 10 million copies of Jakes’ 1980s Civil War book trilogy “North and South,” which inspired an ABC television miniseries — the seventh-highest rated miniseries in TV history. Since the first Kent volume, “The Bastard,” Jakes has put 16 consecutive books on the Times’ bestseller list, including last November’s “The Gods of Newport.”

He’s been labeled “the godfather of historical fiction.”

All of those milestones and praise are “something one just shakes his head at,” Jakes said in a telephone interview earlier this month.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News Poll
AP Video
Raw: Obamas Attend Easter Service Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station Raw: Crowds Rally at '420' Celebration in Denver Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy Raw: Ferry Captain Received Medical Treatment Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Marathoners Celebrate Easter With Tradition Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus
NDN Video
Celebs Share Their Easter Fun At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Hundreds Gather for Denver Pot Rally on Easter Dr. Phil Put In The Hot Seat By His Own Wife Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding?

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010