Jay Williams (May 31, 1914–July 12, 1978) was an American author born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Max and Lillian Jacobson. He cited the experience of growing up as the son of a vaudeville show producer as leading him to pursue his acting career as early as college. Between 1931 and 1934 he attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University where he took part in amateur theatrical productions.
Out of school and out of work during the end of the Depression, he worked as a comedian on the upstate New York Borscht Belt circuit. From 1936 until 1941, Jay Williams worked as a press agent for Dwight Deere Winman, Jed Harris and the Hollywood Theatre Alliance. And even though he played a feature role in the Cannes prize winning film, The Little Fugitive
produced in 1953, he turned his attention to writing as a full time career after his discharge from the Army in 1945. He was the recipient of the Purple Heart. While serving in the Army he published his first book, The Stolen Oracle
, in 1943.
Williams may be best-known for his young adult "Danny Dunn" science fiction/fantasy series which he co-authored with Raymond Abrashkin. Though Abrashkin died in 1960, he is listed as co-author of all 15 books of this series, which continued from 1956 until 1977. Jay Williams also wrote mysteries for young adults, such as The Stolen Oracle
, The Counterfeit African
, and The Roman Moon Mystery
Williams also wrote adult crime fiction using the pseudonym Michael Delving. This may be a reference to Michel Delving, a large hobbit-populated town in The Lord of the Rings. One of his series of mysteries feature the American rare book and manuscript collector, Dave Cannon, and take place in Britain.
Jay Williams also wrote a number of successful historical novels for adults, including The Witches
, a look at the eradication of the healing women in Scotland; Solomon and Sheba
; The Siege
, a tale of the 13th century wars initiated by the Pope against the Albigensian heresy; and The Rogue from Padua
, a novel that takes place in the Renaissance.
And he was interested in the future in his many speculative science fiction tales, often published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; eight of these stories were published under the title, Unearthly Beasts
. His novel Uniad
sees a world in which individuality has shrunk.
Jay Williams' novel The Forger
examines commercialism and art, and the relation of art to real life.
His interest in history is reflected in the non-fiction books he wrote: The Middle Ages
, Knights of the Crusades
, The Spanish Armada
, and Joan of Arc
, as well as his young adult Landmark book on World War II, The Battle for the North Atlantic
Williams moreover wrote about the environment, in his Fall of the Sparrow
, where he describes the loss of numerous animal and bird species, often due to man; and a travel book, A Change of Climate
, a European trip with his son, Chris.
In all, he published at least 79 books including 11 picture books, 39 children's novels, 7 adult mysteries, 4 nonfiction books, 8 historical novels and a play.
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