John Jakes (1932-2023)

Writer John Jakes, 90, died March 11, 2023. While famed for his bestselling historical novels, Jakes was a prolific SF and fantasy author early in his career. He published over 60 books in a variety of genres, but became famous with two historical epics: the eight-volume Kent Family Chronicles histories in the 1970s, and the North and South trilogy in the 1980s, which collectively sold tens of millions of copies.

John William Jakes was born March 31, 1932 in Chicago IL. He studied drama at Northwestern University, then transferred to DePauw University to study creative writing, graduating in 1953. He earned a master’s degree in English at Ohio State University in 1954 and worked in advertising from 1954-71 until becoming a full-time writer.

His first work of genre interest was “The Dreaming Trees” in Fantastic Adventures (1950), and early stories appeared in Amazing Stories, Galaxy, If, Imagination, and other genre magazines under his own name and a variety of pseudonyms, among them Alan Henry, Jacob Johns, Alan Payne, Jay Scotland, and Alan Wilder. Some short SF is collected in The Best of John Jakes (1977) and Old Spacemen Never Die (2015).

His first SF novel was When the Star Kings Die (1967), first in the Dragonard series, followed by The Planet Wizard (1969) and Tonight We Steal the Stars (1969). Brak the Barbarian (1968) launched his second series, with sequels Brak the Barbarian versus the Sorceress (1969), Brak the Barbarian versus the Mark of the Demons (1969), When the Idols Walked (1978), and collection The Fortunes of Brak (1980). The Gavin Black series is Master of the Dark Gate (1970) and sequel Witch of the Dark Gate (1972). Standalone titles of genre interest include The Asylum World (1969), The Hybrid (1969), Secrets of Stardeep (1969), The Last Magicians (1969), Six-Gun Planet (1970), Black in Time (1970), Mask of Chaos (1970), Monte Cristo #99 (1970), Mention My Name in Atlantis (1972), Time Gate (1972), On Wheels (1973), and Excalibur! (1980).

Jakes is survived by wife Rachel Payne, married in 1951; three daughters; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

For more, see his entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

4 thoughts on “John Jakes (1932-2023)

  • March 20, 2023 at 10:36 am

    Sorry to be nitpicking, but he was 90, not 70.

  • March 20, 2023 at 12:48 pm

    He was not 70, he was 90.


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