Walter Stone Tevis

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Walter Stone Tevis
  • Name: Walter Stone Tevis
  • Born: 28 February,1928
  • Died: 08 August,1984
  • Nationality: America
  • Memorial ID: TT285819471
  • The Creator: skyer
  • Clicks: 175

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Walter Stone Tevis (February 28, 1928 - August 8, 1984) was an American novelist and short story author. His books became the sources for several major films.

Tevis was born in San Francisco, California. As a child, Walter grew up in San Francisco's Sunset District, near the sea and Golden Gate Park. When he was ten years old, his parents placed him in the Stanford Children's Convalescent home for a year while they returned to Kentucky, where the Tevis family had been given a grant of land in Madison County. At the age of 11, Walter traveled across country alone on a train to rejoin his family.

WWII and Kentucky
Near the end of World War II, the 17-year-old Tevis served in the Pacific Theater as a Navy carpenter's mate on board the USS Hamilton. After his discharge, he graduated from Model High School in 1945 and entered the University of Kentucky where he received B.A. and M.A. degrees in English literature and studied with A.B. Guthrie, Jr., author of The Big Sky. While a student there, Tevis worked in a pool hall and published a story about pool written for Guthrie's class.

After graduation, he wrote for the Kentucky Highway Department and taught everything from the sciences and English to physical education in small town Kentucky high schools (Science Hill, Hawesville, Irvine and Carlisle). He later taught at Northern Kentucky University. Tevis married his first wife, Jamie Griggs, in 1957, and they remained together for 27 years.

Tevis wrote more than two dozen short stories for a variety of magazines. "The Big Hustle," his pool hall story for Collier's (August 5, 1955), was illustrated by Denver Gillen. It was followed by short stories in The American Magazine, Bluebook, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Galaxy Science Fiction, Playboy, Redbook and The Saturday Evening Post.

After his first novel, The Hustler (Harper & Row, 1959), he followed with The Man Who Fell to Earth, published in 1963 by Gold Medal Books. He taught English literature and creative writing at Ohio University (in Athens, Ohio) from 1965 to 1978, where he received an MFA.

While Tevis was teaching at Ohio University, he became aware that the level of literacy among students was falling at an alarming rate. That observation gave him the idea for Mockingbird (1980), set in a grim and decaying New York City of the 25th Century. The population is declining, no one can read, and robots rule over the drugged, illiterate humans. With the birth rate dropping, the end of the species seems a possibility. Tevis was a nominee for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1980 for Mockingbird. During one of his last televised interviews, he revealed that PBS once planned a production of Mockingbird as a follow-up to their 1979 film of The Lathe of Heaven.

Tevis also wrote The Steps of the Sun (1983) and The Queen's Gambit (1983). His short stories were collected in Far from Home (Doubleday, 1981). Aspects of Tevis' childhood are embedded in The Man Who Fell to Earth, as noted by James Sallis, writing in the Boston Globe:

On the surface, Man is the tale of an alien who comes to earth to save his own civilization and, through adversity, distraction, and loss of faith ("I want to... But not enough"), fails. Just beneath the surface, it might be read as a parable of 1950s conventionalism and of the Cold War. One of the many other things it is, in Tevis's own words, is "a very disguised autobiography," the tale of his removal as a child from San Francisco, "the city of light," to rural Kentucky, and of the childhood illness that long confined him to bed, leaving him, once recovered, weak, fragile, and apart. It was also -- as he realized only after writing it -- about his becoming an alcoholic. Beyond that, it is, of course, a Christian parable, and a portrait of the artist. It is, finally, one of the most heartbreaking books I know, a threnody on great ambition and terrible failure, and an evocation of man's absolute, unabridgeable aloneness.
Three of his six novels were the basis of major motion pictures of the same names. The Hustler and The Color of Money (1984) followed the escapades of fictional pool hustler "Fast Eddie" Felson. The Man Who Fell to Earth was filmed in 1976 by Nicolas Roeg and again in 1987 as a TV film.

A member of the Authors Guild, Tevis spent his last years in New York City as a full-time writer. He died there of lung cancer in 1984 and is buried in Richmond, Kentucky. His books have been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Icelandic, Greek, Slovak, Serbo-Croatian, Hebrew, Turkish, Japanese and Thai. In 2003, Jamie Griggs Tevis published her autobiography, My Life with the Hustler. She died August 4, 2006. His second wife, Eleanora Tevis, is the trustee of the Walter Tevis Copyright Trust, and Walter Tevis' literary output is represented by the Susan Schulman Literary Agency.

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