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...
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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.
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...
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