John Henry O’Hara was born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, on January 31, 1905, the son of Patrick Henry O’Hara, a well-known doctor, and Katherine Elizabeth Delaney O’Hara. He was the eldest of eight children in a Catholic family. O’Hara attended Fordham Preparatory School and the Keystone State Normal School, and he graduated from Niagara Preparatory School in 1924, after which he worked at odd jobs—a great variety of them—before finally settling into journalism. He had passed the required examinations to enroll at Yale University, but his father’s death precluded his attending college.
O’Hara worked as a reporter for two newspapers in Pennsylvania, then for three in New York. His journalistic experience was as varied as his previous work had been: He covered sports, news, politics, and religion. He served as film critic on the Morning Telegraph, football editor at The New Yorker, and editor-in-chief of the Pittsburgh Bulletin-Index. He was employed by Time magazine and would eventually write columns for the Trenton Times-Advertiser, Collier’s, Newsweek, and Holiday. Some sources list Franey Delaney as an O’Hara pseudonym because he once wrote a radio column under that name. After the publication of his first novel, Appointment in Samarra (1934), he became a writer for motion pictures, working in turn for four of the largest studios in Hollywood.
Appointment in Samarra was such an extraordinarily successful first novel that immediately after its publication O’Hara was considered a major American writer. He went on to publish more than two dozen novels, volumes of short stories, plays, essays, and sketches. Of his more than three hundred short stories, many first appeared in The New Yorker.
Most of O’Hara’s novels were best sellers, and a number...
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