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Beach, Rex (01 September 1877–07 December 1949), novelist and scenarist, was born Rex Ellingwood Beach in Atwood, Michigan, the son of Henry Walter Beach, a fruit farmer, and Eva Eunice Canfield, a former schoolteacher. When Beach was nine years old, he and his two older brothers accompanied their parents when they left their ill-paying farm and sailed with two neighboring families on a schooner to Chicago, into and down the Illinois River, to the Mississippi River, and on to Tampa, Florida, where they homesteaded on a farm. Beach attended the preparatory department of Rollins College, at Winter Park, Florida, beginning in 1891, then Rollins College, where he earned his tuition money by managing a laundry. He studied well, played intercollegiate baseball, and edited and managed the school literary magazine. In 1896 he left school short of graduating. Joining his brothers, both lawyers in Chicago, he performed odd jobs for them and studied at the Chicago College of Law. He played football and water polo on teams sponsored by the Chicago Athletic Association—mainly to eat at its training table. He was 6′ 1″, weighed just over 200 pounds, and had a correspondingly large appetite....

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Susan Gunter and Elizabeth Archuleta

Burnett, W. R. (25 November 1899–25 April 1982), novelist and screenwriter, was born William Riley Burnett in Springfield, Ohio, the son of Theodore Addison Burnett, an aide to the governor, and Emily Upson Colwell Morgan. Burnett attended the Miami Military Institute at Germantown, Ohio, graduating in 1919. That same year he attended Ohio State University for one semester in the School of Journalism. In 1921 Burnett married Marjorie Louise Bartow and worked as a factory shop steward and insurance salesman. The couple had no children. Later that year he became a statistician for Ohio’s Department of Industrial Relations. During the next six years he wrote short stories, plays, and novels. Overcoming nervous exhaustion caused by rejection of his work and the monotony of his job, he quit in 1927, moved to Chicago, and began writing full time....

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Clavell, James (10 October 1925–06 September 1994), screenwriter and novelist, was born James du Maresq Clavell in Sydney, Australia, the son of Sir Richard Charles Clavell, a captain in the British Royal Navy, and Lady Eileen Ross. As a child, Clavell listened to the “swashbuckling” stories told by his father and grandfather, also a career military man; these tall tales of the sea and far-flung ports prepared Clavell for his career. Clavell proudly described himself as an “old-fashioned storyteller,” not a novelist; yet it is for his novels, which typically focus on the clash between the West and the Far East, that he is best known....

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Fante, John Thomas (08 April 1909–08 May 1983), novelist and Hollywood screenwriter, was born in Denver, Colorado, the son of Nicholas Peter Fante, a stonemason, and Mary Capolungo. His family, which included two younger brothers and a sister, moved to Boulder, where he attended parochial school and Regis High School, a Jesuit boarding school, followed by one year at the University of Colorado in Denver. In 1929 he began writing and, after his parents’ separation, moved with his mother, brothers, and sister to Wilmington, California. In order to help support the family, he held a number of jobs, from cannery stevedore to hotel and grocery clerk. When his parents reunited, he attended classes at Long Beach Junior College until money ran out....

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Herbert, F. Hugh (29 May 1897–17 May 1958), dramatist, screenwriter, and novelist, was born Frederick Hugh Herbert in Vienna, Austria, the son of Lionel Frederick Herbert, a stockbroker, and Paula Knepler. His family moved to London when he was young, and he was educated at Gresham Public School. He entered the London School of Mines with the intention of becoming an engineer, but his schooling was interrupted by World War I, during which he served with the Royal Garrison Artillery in London and Jamaica....

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McCoy, Horace Stanley (14 April 1897–15 December 1955), novelist and screenwriter, was born in Pegram, Tennessee, the son of James Harris McCoy, a railroad conductor, and Nancye Holt. In 1899 McCoy’s father moved his family to Nashville. McCoy quit school at the age of sixteen and took a series of odd jobs to supplement his father’s modest income....

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Sklar, George (31 May 1908–15 May 1988), playwright, novelist, and screenwriter, was born in Meriden, Connecticut, the son of Ezak Sklar and Bertha Marshak, the owners of a sporting-goods store. From high school in Meriden, Sklar entered Yale, where he took part in the student Dramatic Association as a writer and actor. After election to Phi Beta Kappa and graduation in 1929, he remained at Yale for two years to study playwriting in the School of Drama under ...

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Trumbo, Dalton (09 December 1905–10 September 1976), screenwriter and novelist, was born James Dalton Trumbo in Montrose, Colorado, the son of Orus Trumbo, a shoe store clerk, and Maud Tillery, who, after her husband’s death, worked as a part-time seamstress. In 1908 the family moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, where Trumbo and his two sisters were raised in an atmosphere of financial and social uncertainty. During high school Trumbo worked as a reporter for the ...

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Wheeler, Hugh Callingham (19 March 1912–26 July 1987), playwright, screenwriter, and mystery novelist, was born in Northwood, Middlesex, England, the son of Harold Wheeler, a civil servant, and Florence Scammell. His early education began at the Clayesmore School in Salisbury. Following his graduation from secondary school, he was admitted to the B.A. degree program in English literature at London University, from which he graduated in 1933. After completing his education, Wheeler immigrated to the United States in 1934, taking up residence in New York City. Two years later he entered the literary world with the publication of the first of a series of mystery novels, many co-written with Richard Wilson Webb....