Taylor Caldwell Biography & Facts
Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell (September 7, 1900 – August 30, 1985) was a British-born American novelist and prolific author of popular fiction, also known by the pen names Marcus Holland and Max Reiner, and by her married name of J. Miriam Reback.
In her fiction, she often used real historical events or persons. Taylor Caldwell's best-known works include Dynasty of Death, Dear and Glorious Physician (about Saint Luke), Ceremony of the Innocent, Pillar of Iron (about Cicero), The Earth is the Lord's (about Genghis Khan) and Captains and the Kings. Her last major novel, Answer As a Man, appeared in 1980.
Taylor Caldwell was born in Manchester, England, into a family of Scottish background. Her family descended from the Scottish clan of MacGregor of which the Taylors are a subsidiary clan. At the age of six, she won a medal for an essay on Charles Dickens. In 1907 she emigrated to the United States with her parents, Arthur F. and Anna Caldwell, and her younger brother. Her father died shortly after the move, and the family struggled. At the age of eight she started to write stories, and in fact wrote her first novel, The Romance of Atlantis, at the age of twelve (although it remained unpublished until 1975). She continued to write prolifically, however, despite ill health.
In 1918–1919, she served in the United States Navy Reserve. In 1919 she married William F. Combs. In 1920, they had a daughter, Mary (known as "Peggy"). From 1923 to 1924 she was a court reporter in New York State Department of Labor in Buffalo, New York. In 1924, she went to work for the United States Department of Justice, as a member of the Board of Special Inquiry (an immigration tribunal) in Buffalo. In 1931 she graduated from the University of Buffalo, and also was divorced from William Combs.
Caldwell then married her second husband, Marcus Reback, who worked for the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. She had a second child with Reback, a daughter Judith, in 1932. They were married for 40 years, until his death in 1971.
In 1934, she began to work on the novel Dynasty of Death, which she and Reback completed in collaboration. It was published in 1938 and became a best-seller. "Taylor Caldwell" was presumed to be a man, and there was some public stir when the author was revealed to be a woman. Over the next 43 years, she published 42 more novels, many of them best-sellers. For instance, This Side of Innocence was the biggest fiction seller of 1946, spending more than six months on the New York Times Fiction Best Seller list, including nine weeks at #1. (In 1947, according to Time, her husband Marcus Reback discarded and burned the manuscripts of 140 unpublished novels.) Her published works sold an estimated 30 million copies. She became wealthy, traveling to Europe and elsewhere, though she still lived near Buffalo.
Her books were big sellers right up to the end of her career. In 1979, she signed a two-novel deal for $3.9 million.During her career as a writer, she received several awards.
The National League of American Pen Women gold medal (1948)
The Buffalo Evening News Award (1949)
The Grand Prix Chatvain (1950)She was an outspoken conservative and for a time wrote for the John Birch Society's monthly journal American Opinion and even associated with the antisemitic Liberty Lobby.Her memoir, On Growing Up Tough, appeared in 1971, consisting of many edited-down articles from American Opinion.
Around 1970, she became interested in reincarnation. She had become friends with well-known occultist author Jess Stearn, who suggested that the vivid detail in her many historical novels was actually subconscious recollection of previous lives. She agreed to be hypnotized and undergo "past life regression" to disprove reincarnation. However, according to Stearn's book, The Search for a Soul – Taylor Caldwell's Psychic Lives (1973), Caldwell instead began to recall her own past lives – eleven in all, including one on the "lost" continent of Atlantis.
In 1972, she married William Everett Stancell, a retired real estate developer, but divorced him in 1973. In 1978, she married William Robert Prestie, a Canadian 17 years her junior. This led to difficulties with her children. She had a long dispute with her daughter Judith over the estate of Judith's father Marcus; in 1979, Judith committed suicide.Also in 1979, Caldwell suffered a stroke, which left her unable to speak, though she could still write (she had been deaf since about 1965). Her daughter Peggy accused Prestie of abusing and exploiting Caldwell, and there was a legal battle over her substantial assets.She died of heart failure in Greenwich, Connecticut, on August 30, 1985.
Dynasty of Death was her first published work, a family saga lasting from 1837 to World War I, about two families in western Pennsylvania who rise to control a great armaments business. The story was continued in The Eagles Gather (1940) and The Final Hour (1944).
As a writer Caldwell was praised for her intricately plotted and suspenseful stories, which depicted family tensions and the development of the U.S. from an agrarian society into the leading industrial state of the world. Caldwell's heroes are self-made men of pronounced ethnic background, such as the German immigrants in The Strong City (1942) and The Balance Wheel (1951). Her themes are ethnic, religious and personal intolerance (The Wide House, 1945), the failure of parental discipline (Let Love Come Last, 1949) and the conflict between the desire for power and money and the human values of love and sense of family (Melissa (1948), A Prologue to Love (1962), and Bright Flows the River (1978)).
In her later works Caldwell explored the American Dream and wrote stories of the "rags to riches" course of life. Among these was her last great best-seller, Captains and the Kings (1972), which chronicles the rise to wealth of a poor Irish immigrant to America in the 1800s. Captains and the Kings was made into a television mini-series in 1976. Another was her last novel, Answer As a Man (1980). In 1952 she wrote The Devil's Advocate, set in a dystopia where North America has become a Communist dictatorship.
She wrote many historical novels, including several about famous religious figures. Dear and Glorious Physician (1959) was about Saint Luke; Great Lion of God (1970) was about Saint Paul; and I, Judas (1977) was about Judas Iscariot.
In The Earth Is the Lord's (1941), she fictionalized Genghis Khan; in The Arm and the Darkness (1943), Cardinal Richelieu; in A Pillar of Iron (1965), the Roman senator and orator Cicero; and in Glory and the Lightning (1974), Aspasia, mistress of the Athenian leader Pericles.
Caldwell addressed religious themes in several works. Answer As a Man begins with the church bells and ends with an evocation of renewed faith. Dialogues with the Devil (1967) is a correspondence between Lucifer and Michael the Archangel. Mixed into this dialogue are o.... Discover the Taylor Caldwell popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Taylor Caldwell books.