Scott Turow Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Scott Turow was born on April 12, 1949, in Chicago, to David D. Turow, a gynecologist, and Rita Pastron Turow, an author of children’s books. His early years were spent in that city in what he called a “nouveau-riche Jewish ghetto.” When he was thirteen, his family moved to the wealthier, more middle-American Chicago suburb of Winnetka, Illinois.

In Winnetka, Turow endured what he characterized as a “quiet current of anti-Semitism” and failed freshman English at the prestigious New Trier High School. He responded with his first literary success, becoming editor of the school newspaper, later formulating plans to pursue a writing career and sidestepping his parents’ wishes for him to become a doctor.

In 1966, Turow entered Amherst College, where, as an English major, he was influenced by Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet (1962) and Robert Stone’s A Hall of Mirrors (1967). By the end of his freshman year, Turow had completed his first novel. The manuscript was rejected by numerous publishers, but a personal response from an editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux both encouraged him to keep writing and led eventually to a long-term relationship with the publisher.

While still an undergraduate, Turow was also encouraged by the celebrated short-story writer Tillie Olsen and by acceptance of one of his own short stories by the Transatlantic Review. After obtaining his B.A. from Amherst in 1970, he accepted a creative writing fellowship at Stanford University. While there, he completed a second novel, which, like the first, was roundly rejected (once again, however, Farrar, Straus and Giroux was encouraging). The plot, centering on a rent strike, reflected Turow’s interest in civic policy and thus the law. After teaching creative writing at Stanford for four years and receiving his M.A., yet needing a practical career to support his family, he enrolled at Harvard Law School.

Turow had not, however, abandoned his literary ambitions. Before he entered law school, his agent negotiated a $4,000 advance from Putnam Books for a nonfiction account of his...

(The entire section is 874 words.)

Scott Turow Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Turow’s career has been characterized throughout by duality, by his twin vocations as writer and lawyer, by his ambivalent attitude toward his own success at both. His corresponding insight into the ambiguous nature of truth—particularly that of the legal variety—is what powers his work. At a time when lawyers have become the arbiters of moral dilemmas, Turow has done more than any other writer working in the genre of legal suspense to rise above cliché and stereotyping. He explores the protean nature of human experience and the ways in which the law both shapes and contradicts it.

Scott Turow Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The eldest of two children, Scott Fredrick Turow was born into an upper-middle-class Jewish family in Chicago, the son of a physician and a former public school teacher. When he was in his teens, his family moved from a largely Jewish neighborhood in the city to the suburbs. Turow’s father, a former U.S. Army doctor, treated depression and devoted most of his time to his work, so Turow’s relationship with him was somewhat strained. Largely inspired by his mother, who had written unpublished short stories and novels and published a self-help book, Turow decided to pursue a career as a writer. He enrolled in Amherst College in Massachusetts in 1966, where he majored in English and studied with Tillie Olsen, a noted writer of Jewish and feminist short stories. Turow graduated summa cum laude and in 1970 entered the master’s program in creative writing at Stanford University, where he continued to study with Olsen as well as with the well-known novelist Wallace Stegner.

In 1971, Turow married Annette Weisberg, a painter and teacher who also had grown up in the suburbs of Chicago; the couple would eventually have three children. Turow was awarded the appointment of E. H. Jones Lecturer in Creative Writing at Stanford, but after three years as a teacher he began to feel that life in academia kept him too far removed from the real world. Turow had become interested in the law, intrigued by research into legal matters he had done for his first novel, “The...

(The entire section is 516 words.)

Scott Turow Biography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Scott Turow was born in Chicago on April 12, 1949, to David D. Turow, a physician, and Rita Pastron Turow, a writer. He grew up in Chicago and later in the affluent suburb of Winnetka, Illinois. From both parents he inherited a strong work ethic and powerful ambition. They expected him to become a physician like his father, but from a very early age he dreamed of being a writer. He edited his school newspaper and avidly read the authors who were to influence his own thought and work: Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Saul Bellow, whom he considered the voice of his parents’ generation. After high school, he enrolled as an English major at Amherst College. He began writing fiction, publishing short stories in literary periodicals such as the Transatlantic Review. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Amherst in 1970, Turow attended the Stanford University Creative Writing Center for two years on an Edith Mirrielees Fellowship. On April 4, 1971, he married Annette Weisberg, an artist; the couple has three children.

While enrolled at Stanford, Turow worked on a novel about Chicago to be called The Way Things Are. However, one publisher after another rejected the manuscript, leading Turow to doubt his prospects as an author. He decided to pursue a legal career, entering Harvard Law School in 1975. However, he never abandoned writing, even temporarily, though at this point he saw it as a “private passion” rather than a career. He later recounted his law school experiences in a nonfiction book published in 1977 as One L: An Inside Account of Life in the First Year at Harvard Law School. While...

(The entire section is 683 words.)

Scott Turow Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Scott Turow (tuh-ROH) is a successful Chicago attorney who has written best-selling fictional and nonfictional portrayals of the lives of lawyers and law students which both entertain and grapple with important moral and ethical issues confronting the legal system. Turow received his bachelor’s degree from Amherst College in 1970 and his M.A. in 1974 from Stanford University.

When he entered Harvard University Law School in the fall of 1975, he wrote down his reflections and experiences on the pressures and stresses to which he and his fellow students were subjected at this highly competitive and prestigious law school. His book analyzing these experiences was published in 1977 as One L and was immediately popular with both current and prospective law students, as well as with lawyers and the public. In many ways Harvard Law School has long served as a model for legal education in the United States, and the portrayal of the experience there from a student perspective helped encourage much critical examination. While this first book was nonfiction, it was told as a story and was highly entertaining—a precursor to the author’s later success as a popular novelist.

Following Turow’s graduation from Harvard Law School in 1978, he returned to Chicago, where he was admitted to the Illinois Bar and worked as a criminal prosecutor, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1978 to 1986. Turow’s tenure at the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago had included the time frame in which a widely publicized federal government “sting” operation entitled Operation Greylord had resulted in the indictment and successful prosecution of many local judges for taking bribes, fixing cases, and other corrupt acts. It was during his term in that job that he began in his spare time (including on the train during his commute downtown to his job) to write on yellow legal pads, recording a gritty, realistic portrayal of the workings of a county prosecutor’s office. The resulting legal thriller, Presumed Innocent, was published in 1987 and became a best-seller. It is told in the first person by a male prosecutor who is ultimately charged with, prosecuted for, and then acquitted of the murder of a female...

(The entire section is 913 words.)