John Dudley Ball, Jr., was born in Schenectady, New York, on July 8, 1911, to John Dudley, Sr., a research scientist, and Alena L. Wiles Ball. He attended Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1934. After becoming a commercial pilot for Pan American World Airways, he joined the United States Army Air Transport Command at the outbreak of World War II, serving as a flight instructor and a member of a flight crew until 1946. Following his service, Ball pursued a career as a music critic and annotator, first as a writer of liner notes for Columbia Masterworks Records (1946-1949) and music editor for the Brooklyn Eagle (1946-1950) and then as a columnist for the New York World-Telegram. Ball also worked as a music commentator for WOL, a radio station in Washington, D.C. During this time he published his first books, on the record industry and early recordings of classical music. Later, Ball worked in advertising and for various public relations enterprises.
In 1958, he joined the Institute of the Aerospace Sciences (IAS) as public relations director, a post he held until 1961, when IAS was absorbed by the larger American Rocket Society. At that point Ball joined DMS News Service, a publishing company in Beverly Hills, where he was employed as editor in chief until 1963. He served as writer, chairman, and editor in chief for the University of California Mystery Library Program. During the mid-1970’s Ball also became a sworn deputy sheriff in Los Angeles County and a volunteer associate of the City of Pasadena Police Department.
The year 1958 marked Ball’s return to book publication. Since then he wrote or edited more than thirty books, including fourteen mystery novels, winning the Edgar Allan Poe Award (1966) and the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger Award (1966), both for In the Heat of the Night (1965). In addition, Ball wrote some four hundred articles on aviation, music, astronomy, and travel. He died October 15, 1988, in Encino, California.