John Jakes, Virtuoso Of Historical Novels, Dies At 90

John Jakes, the American bestselling author of historical and speculative novels, has passed away at the age of 90. Let’s reflect on his grand writing career.

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John Jakes books and portrait

John Jakes, the author behind bestselling novels such as The Bastard and his American Civil War trilogy North and South, was reported to have passed away at the age of 90 on Saturday, March 11th at his Sarasota residence. His death had been announced by his literary agent, Frank R. Curtis.

Born in Chicago on March 31st, 1932, John Jakes’ literary talents would begin to emerge at a young age with his first short story having been released when he was only 18. It was the humble beginning of a writing career that would span across Jakes’ lifetime with over 80 published books and more than 120 million sold copies across the world.

Author Photograph of John Jakes.

Prior to John’s popularity with the book world, he worked as copywriter for advertising agencies and indulged his passion for writing fiction in his past-time. However, his career would find its initial spark with his first major book in the 1970s, a story that would become the founding stone of John’s legacy.

John Jakes’ Big Break

The year 1974 heralded the publication of The Bastard, John’s first distinguished novel which would put his name on the map. It was the first of eight volumes that would form the The Kent Family Chronicles, a series of historical novels that followed the stories of each Kent family member, all closely intertwined with real events taking place during the American Revolution.

The Kent Family Chronicles, all eight volumes, book covers.

The 1970s were a beacon of stardom for John Jakes as each novel from the series would garner over 3 million sold copies, propelling John into the league of sensational authors with three volumes alone having been named bestsellers in 1975.

The Bastard would also receive a four-hour long movie adaptation in 1978, further driving John’s popularity among the book community.

North and South

Fueled by the enormous success of The Kent Family Chronicles, John Jakes would also publish North and South, the first of his 1980s trilogy of historical novels revolving around the events of the American Civil War. All three entries would earn bestseller status, with each receiving an ABC-TV miniseries adaptation, solidifying John Jakes as an American household name.

ABC-TV Miniseries Adaptation Cover, two Civil War soldiers.

John Jakes was named Florida Literary Legend in 2013 for his achievements and his lasting legacy serves as an inspiration for avid fans of the historical novel genre. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Rachel, and their four children.

Be sure to check out our resources here for insightful historical reads.