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"Sue me for not being Flaubert. I've given it the best shot I can."
-- John Jakes in a People Magazine interview
"That's not only... an injustice to Flaubert... it's also the defensive whine of a writer who has been thrust into sudden success and feels ragingly insecure about his talent, or the lack of it.... Now I am more secure about what I do...."
--John Jakes in a Contemporary Authors interview
John Jakes' struggle to become a successful fiction writer was in two ways like that of the United States earning its independence: The fight was won with persistent effort and a little luck.
Jakes wrote in obscurity for more than 20 years while holding down full-time employment. With the goal of earning enough money from his writing to pay for his children's college education, Jakes hit pay-dirt in 1974.
A writing assignment that a friend turned down landed in Jakes' lap: Write a series of historical fiction novels that traces the lives of one family from 1776 forward. The assignment turned out to be one of the most successful series of mass-market fiction ever published, the Bicentennial Series, also known as The Kent Family Chronicles. The first novel in the series, the 1974 best-seller "The Bastard," was an overnight success and re-ignited Jakes' now-50-year career.
Photo: On Secret Service publicity photo/photo credit Joseph Mick--Dutton, June 2000
Movie on the Show
Title: “The Rebels: Part II of the Kent Family Chronicles”
Video: MCA Universal Home Video
Year: 1979 Universal City Studies, Inc.
Music on the Show
Artist: The United States Air Force Band of Flight
CD Title: “Onward-Upward”
Song: March from The Right Stuff by Bill Conti, arr. SrA Tim McMillen
Listen to the NPR 820 radio feature. (MP3 - 2.7M)