John Jakes Obituary – Death: ‘North And South’, ‘The Bastard’ Author Passed Away At 90
John Jakes, the prolific author of bestselling historical novels, died at the age of 90 at a hospice facility in Sarasota, Florida on Saturday. Frank R. Curtis, his literary agent and lawyer, announced his death.
Jakes was born in Chicago on March 31, 1932. He wrote his first short story at 18 and went on to publish more than 80 books, selling over 120 million copies worldwide. In 1974, he achieved a major breakthrough with the publication of The Bastard, the first book in The Kent Family Chronicles, an eight-volume series that mixed historical events and characters with fiction. The series, which chronicled the decade leading up to the American Revolution, became a bestseller, with all eight volumes achieving that status by 1975.
The Bastard was adapted into a four-hour TV movie in 1978, while Jakes’ North And South trilogy, set before, during, and after the Civil War, was even more popular. The first book in the series, North And South, was published in 1982, with Love And War and Heaven And Hell following in 1984 and 1987, respectively. All three books were bestsellers, and the trilogy was adapted into successful miniseries by ABC. The first two miniseries starred Patrick Swayze and James Read as best friends who fought on opposing sides during the war, while the large cast included Lesley-Anne Down, Wendy Kilbourne, Kirstie Alley, and Genie Francis. Hal Holbrook, Robert Guillaume, and Johnny Cash also appeared in the series.
Jakes’ later work included a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which was widely produced by university and regional theaters. He helped establish Sarasota’s New College John Jakes Endowed Writing Scholarship, and The Florida State University Libraries named him a Florida Literary Legend. Jakes was also a member of the Authors Guild, the Dramatists Guild, and served on the Authors Guild Foundation and DePauw University’s Board of Trustees.
Jakes is survived by his wife of 71 years, Rachel Ann Payne of Danville, Illinois, whom he met at DePauw, as well as his children, Andrea Jakes, Ellen Jakes Kelm, J. Michael Jakes, and Victoria Jakes Montgomery, their spouses, and 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.