Robert (Edmund) Cormier 1925–
American novelist, short story writer, editor, and journalist.
Cormier writes of individuals in conflict with social and political forces. His protagonists often find themselves in situations which place them in direct opposition to powerful adversaries, both identified and unknown. These protagonists eventually come to realize, as does Adam in I Am the Cheese (1977), that in order to survive they must learn to stand alone. Without moralizing, Cormier's novels stress the importance of self-reliance and self-respect. His combination of realism, sensitivity, and originality has made him popular with both readers and critics and has moved him to the forefront of contemporary young adult novelists.
Many of Cormier's subjects stem from his experiences as a newspaper reporter and human interest columnist. For instance, the models for Gracie of A Little Raw on Monday Mornings (1963) and Tommy Battin of Take Me Where the Good Times Are (1965) were interviewed by Cormier while on assignment. Other themes are rooted in Cormier's personal life: his father's death from cancer was the stimulus for Now and at the Hour (1960), and his son's refusal to sell candy for his high school served as the background for The Chocolate War (1974). These novels are fast-moving and establish personality in short, quick strokes.
The Chocolate War was Cormier's first book for young adults and since its publication he has written exclusively for that audience, often facing controversy over the appropriateness of pessimistic themes for young adult readers. His novel After the First Death (1979), which portrays the capture by terrorists of a busload of children, has stimulated the same debate among critics as Cormier's earlier works. While some critics denounce his writing as bleak and fatalistic, others praise Cormier's honesty in dealing with evil. Critics have found a more optimistic tone in two other recent Cormier works. Eight Plus One (1980), a collection of short stories, concentrates on the intricacies of relationships, particularly between fathers and sons, while The Bumblebee Flies Anyway (1983) depicts a group of terminally ill adolescents who are able to assert some control over their destinies.
(See also CLC, Vol. 12; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 5; and Something about the Author, Vol. 10.)