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

A Story That Ends With A Scream


"His characters are distinctive. He has a sense of place which he vividly conveys to the reader. Above all there is originality. Mr. Herlihy follows an inspired tradition of contemporary American writing."
—Baltimore Sun
In his second collection of short stories, James Leo Herlihy explores a landscape of people living on the fringes of normal society as the pleasures of daily life fade. Men and women search for the missing fragment of meaning from their existence with Herlihy’s signature humor and deft dialogue.
In the titular story, Mary Ellen McClure is trapped in a dull, unfulfilled life in a trailer park, suspecting her husband of having an affair. Together with her neighbor Ivy, she dabbles with a Ouija board which spells out the name Ezra and implies that Mary Ellen will have an affair. She becomes enamored with the fantasy of this unknown man—at first falling deep into the escapism of the imagined affair, then resolving to find him for real to save her from her stale life.
Herlihy’s other gothic tales tell of Consilada Rector, who can’t get people to believe in the leprechaun that presides over her husband’s bar; Mrs. Dorothy Fitzpatrick, who records of the existence of a ghostly mail delivery truck; and a dying man who comes to stay with a mother and her blessed son William.

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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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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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Books By
James Leo Herlihy