O'Hara, John, 1905–70, American novelist and short-story writer, b. Pottsville, Pa. He worked at a number of jobs and ultimately became a newspaperman before the appearance of his first novel, Appointment in Samarra (1934). The book, an immediate success, began O'Hara's long career as a highly commercial and popular writer. Among his other novels are Butterfield 8 (1935), Pal Joey (1940; musical comedy adaptation, 1941), A Rage to Live (1949), Ten North Frederick (1955), From the Terrace (1958), The Lockwood Concern (1965), and The Ewings (1972). O'Hara, who wove his tales around themes of class, sex, and booze, has been called a photographic, acid observer of American urban life. Some critics believe his best work is in his collections of short stories, many of which first appeared in the New Yorker; these include The Doctor's Son (1935), Hellbox (1947), Assembly (1961), The Cape Cod Lighter (1962), The Horse Knows the Way (1964), and Good Samaritan and Other Stories (1974).
See Selected Letters of John O'Hara (1978), ed. by M. J. Bruccoli; biographies by F. Farr (1973), M. J. Bruccoli (1975, repr. 1995), F. MacShane (1980), and G. Wolff (2003).
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O'Hara, John (Henry)(1905–70) writer; born in Pottsville, Pa. He attended the Niagara Preparatory School (Niagara Falls, N.Y.). He worked as a reporter in Pottsville (1924–26), then held a variety of jobs, such as steel worker, soda jerk, and gas meter reader. He moved to New York City where he worked as a movie critic, and, using the name of Franey Delaney, as a radio commentator. He was a newspaper editor in Pittsburgh before becoming a press agent for Warner Brothers in Hollywood and a film writer (1934–45). He later settled in Princeton, N.J. A keen observer of the social habits and possessions of his time, he wrote entertaining novels about the sexual exploits and struggles of the upper-middle-class, but never fully gained the critical respect he craved. Appointment in Samarra (1934) was his first successful novel, followed by others such as Butterfield 8 (1935), and Ten North Frederick (1955). Another work, Pal Joey (1940), became a popular musical.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.