James Leo Herlihy

James Leo Herlihy

James Leo Herlihy was born in 1927 in Detroit, Michigan to a working-class family. After serving in World War II, Herlihy studied art, literature, and music at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, whose faculty had boasted such luminaries as William De Kooning and John Cage. After a professor told Herlihy that he had no future as a writer, the disillusioned Herlihy turned his attention to theater, where he met with considerable success and found acting roles in more than fifty plays over the span of several years.
But Herlihy continued writing fiction despite the discouragement he had received and in 1960 he published All Fall Down, a largely critically acclaimed work which was later adapted for film. In 1965 he published Midnight Cowboy, which cemented his reputation as a serious writer.
After the success of Midnight Cowboy, Herlihy retreated from the public eye and turned his attention to teaching. He took creative writing posts at the City College of New York, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Southern California. Herlihy died in Los Angeles in 1993 from an overdose of sleeping medication.

Featured Books By Author

All Fall Down

"Herlihy sheds a mourning light on the dark nights of the adolescent soul, even with its pain." New York Herald Tribune Book Review
Most people in town think sixteen-year-old Clinton Williams’ family is strange. His father, once an outspoken socialist, now searches for answers at the bottom of a glass. His mother has a reputation for scaring children. And his older brother, named Berry-berry, is a traveling vagabond, known by most for his cleft chin, loose morals, and streaks of violence.

Clinton himself is seen as meek, timid, and not quite right as he spends his days filling notebook after notebook, writing down every conversation he can overhear, word for word. Wishing he could contact his wayward brother, Clinton yearns for a day when he too can escape the neighborhood and travel the country. After following a clue to Berry-berry’s whereabouts, Clinton ventures to coastal Florida hoping to find him, but instead gets a firsthand view of his brother’s callous destructiveness that will leave permanent marks on the young man.

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The Season of the Witch


"One of the best and most convincing novels written so far about the lifestyle of the Woodstock generation." —Publishers Weekly
It’s the fall of 1969, and Gloria Random’s best friend John has been called up for the draft. To escape it, they decide to run away from their Midwest town and their mundane lives. Renaming themselves Witch and Roy, they head to New York City in search of Witch’s biological father. Landing in the East Village, they are pulled into a community of drug use, mystical rituals, and sexual experimentation as they try to hide deeper and deeper from the realities they left behind.
James Leo Herlihy’s third novel captures the mood and grooves of late-sixties New York at the height of the anti-war movement and the counterculture revolution. With his trademark wit and insight, Herlihy brings together a colorful cast of characters ripped right from the heart of one of the most turbulent eras in American history.

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Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy is considered by many to be one of the best American novels published since World War II. The main story centers around Joe Buck, a naive but eager and ambitious young Texan, who decides to leave his dead-end job in search of a grand and glamorous life he believes he will find in New York City. But the city turns out to be a much more difficult place to negotiate than Joe could ever have imagined. He soon finds himself and his dreams compromised. Buck’s fall from innocence and his relationship with the crippled street hustler Ratso Rizzo form the novel’s emotional nucleus. This unlikely pairing of Ratso and Joe Buck is perhaps one of the most complex portraits of friendship in contemporary literature.

The focus on male friendship follows a strong path cut by Twain’s Huck and Jim, Melville’s Ishmael and Queequeg, Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby, and Kerouac’s Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity. Midnight Cowboy takes a well-deserved place among a group of distinguished American novels that write--often with unnerving candor--about those who live on the fringe of society.

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James Leo Herlihy