Leon Marcus Uris (YEWR-ihs) endures as one of the most popular—and controversial—American novelists. Born on August 3, 1924, in Baltimore, the son of Wolf William and Anna Blumberg Uris, he was educated in the Baltimore and Philadelphia city schools before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps in 1942. He served with the Marines in the Pacific and in Northern California and was honorably discharged in 1946. In 1945, while stationed near San Francisco, he met and married Marine Sergeant Betty Katherine Beck, with whom he had three children: Karen, Mark, and Michael. To support his family while struggling to publish, he worked as a home delivery manager for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin. When he finally sold an article on football to Esquire in 1950, he decided to work on a novel about World War II because “the real Marine story had not been told.” That novel was Battle Cry, and its astonishing success in 1953 established him as a full-time writer. This realistic account of World War II introduced the formula that Uris would follow throughout his canon: rather stereotyped characters whose personal drama is played out against a background of international crisis.
The triumph of Battle Cry, made into a successful film in 1955 with a script by the novelist, was not to be repeated with Uris’s second novel, The Angry Hills. Published in 1955, it is a less ambitious and less appealing story of Greek resistance fighters during the Nazi Occupation. The novel repeated the Uris approach, however, being loosely based on the diary of an uncle who had fought in Greece as a volunteer in the Palestinian brigade. In the late 1950’s Uris’s fortunes soared once again. In addition to writing the screenplay for the successful Western Gunfight at the OK Corral, he published Exodus, a novel which not only stands as the author’s greatest literary accomplishment but also entered mass culture as the definitive popular work on the birth of modern Israel. This success, coupled with the equivalent popularity of the film, which starred Paul Newman, established Uris as the unofficial historian of modern Judaism. It is because of his treatment of Jews and Arabs that he has engendered...
(The entire section is 920 words.)