John Jakes, the prolific author whose 1982 historical novel, North and South, became a huge bestseller, has died at 90, the New York Times reports.
Jakes, a native of Chicago, was educated at DePauw University and Ohio State University. He worked as an advertising copywriter, and started publishing novels in the 1950s. He gained positive reviews for Brak the Barbarian, a 1968 collection of short fiction; he would bring the title character back in a series of novels.
In 1974, he published The Bastard, a bestseller that followed a family in the early days of the American Revolution. It would become the first in a series of eight novels called the Kent Family Chronicles; other titles included The Seekers, The Titans, and The Americans.
Eight years after The Bastard, he had his biggest success with North and South, about two families in the years before the Civil War. The book shot to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller chart and spawned a TV miniseries adaptation the following year, which starred Patrick Swayze, Johnny Cash, and Morgan Fairchild.
Jakes published two sequels to North and South: Love and War and Heaven and Hell. Both of those novels were also adapted into miniseries.
Admirers of Jakes remembered him on social media. On Twitter, author David Morrell wrote, “Another major author has left us. John Jakes’s history novels captivated millions of readers.”
And writer Elizabeth Kerri Mahon tweeted, “John Jakes was one of the authors who made me love historical fiction. I remember using my allowance money to buy the Kent Family Chronicles, starting with The Bastard when I was 11. And the North & South trilogy! RIP Mr. Jakes.”
Michael Schaub, a journalist and regular contributor to NPR, lives near Austin, Texas.