Hamner, Earl, Jr.

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Earl Hamner, Jr. 1923–

American novelist and writer for radio and television. Hamner is perhaps best known for The Waltons, a successful television series which is based on his autobiographical novels Spencer's Mountain and The Homecoming and on which he serves as executive story consultant. This series presents an idealized look at a large Depression-era family in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. The early episodes revolved around the eldest son, John-Boy, an aspiring writer based on Hamner himself. After a slow start in 1972, it steadily gained popularity with both viewers and critics, who found its essential gentleness and quiet messages both touching and inspiring. Hamner's series has been criticized for its sentimentality, unreality, and excessive wholesomeness, but his characters have become as familiar as friends to many viewers, whom critics seem to feel have found stability and security in the family's solid structure and who can appreciate the program's nostalgic simplicity. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 73-76.)