John Ball wrote over thirty novels during his career including mysteries, war novels, adventure stories, but his reputation as a novelist is based on his first work–the 1965, In the Heat of the Night. While under considerable pressure from his publisher to make a change, Ball insisted on keeping the leading character in his novel a black man. Ball made the right decision and the book garnered him much praise for progressive thinking and a keen understanding of racial prejudice. Ball wrote other books that featured the hero of In the Heat of the Night, detective Virgil Tibbs, including The Cool Cottontail (1966), and Johnny Get Your Gun (1969). Later in life, Ball worked as a part-time police offer in Los Angeles and also trained in the martial arts. He died in 1988.