Allan E. Eckert

Highlights of a Life

Allan W. Eckert, born in 1931 in Buffalo, New York, grew up in Chicago where he attended public schools, graduating in 1948 from Leyden Community High School in Franklin Park. After four years in the Air Force, finishing up as a staff sergeant at Wright-Patterson AFB in 1952, he attended briefly the University of Dayton (1952) and Ohio University (1953-54).

Though he left without a degree, Eckert’s lifelong studies in history and the natural sciences earned him two honorary doctorates: one a Doctor of Humane Letters from Bowling Green University, and a second, also in Humane Letters, from Wright State University in Dayton.

Eckert has two children — Julie Ann and Joseph Matthew — from a 20-year marriage that ended in 1975. He has been married to Nancy Cross Dent since 1978.

Truly a man of all disciplines, Eckert has won distinction as the author of 39 books and 150 articles, short stories and essays, drawing on his knowledge of human and natural history. He has also produced many poetic works, a widely acclaimed historical drama, television scripts and motion picture screenplays.

Eckert wrote 225 scripts for “The Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,“ a 25-year-long TV series that ended in 1988. For this work, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Eckert an Emmy in 1970.

While his subject matter is very wide-ranging, Eckert has made Ohio his home and won the special admiration of his fellow Ohioans, sharing with Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison the title as All-Time Favorite Ohio Author. Seven of his books, including two novels, four histories, and one biography, have been nominated for Pulitzer Prizes.

In keeping with the scope of his information, Dr. Eckert has dealt in literary forms that weave narratives rich in historical and scientific content. His wide readership has recognized the attraction of closely-researched history presented in the novel’s form. The novels move along through dramatically-presented dialogue based closely on archival records, even when the documents to which he refers are not in the form of dialogue.

Eckert has defended his method saying that he has been careful not to alter or twist historical truth. Reviewers may or may not fault his narrative method, but there is little doubt that he presents his story with vivid and fast-paced intensity.

His series, The Winning of America, is perhaps his best-known narrative in this vein. This sweeping history of the settlement of the Ohio Valley from pre-revolutionary days to early decades of the 19th century portrays the frontier in all its violence and determination.

The popularity of his writing may reside in his ability to make science and history accessible to a wide readership without diluting or distorting them. His outdoor drama, TECUMSEH, for example, has been performed for more than 30 years at the Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheater in Chillecothe, Ohio. Millions of people have seen this play since it premiered in June of 1973.

Some of his books have been included in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books series, and various works have been translated into 13 languages. His many awards reflect high quality of content and creativity, not just popularity.

Prior to his commercial success, Eckert went for 12 years without getting published. His memory of that dry period fuels an astonishing 18-hour day work schedule, with no break for lunch.

Eckert’s most recent work is in children’s fantasy and adventure. His series, “The Mesmerian Annals,” has been compared to C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.  He expects to complete this series with the forthcoming Phantom Crystal and the Witching Well.

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