Walter Farley built his career upon a love of horses that began in early childhood, when he played with a black horse toy. The Black Stallion reflects this love and several other aspects of Farley's life. Much like the novel's teenage hero Alec Ramsay, young Farley rode horseback near his home in Flushing, New York. He often visited the nearby Belmont racetrack, site of Alec's fictional workouts with the stallion. Farley spent as much time as he could with an uncle who trained horses for shows and races. Characters in The Black Stallion are surely patterned on people Farley met during these times. The awe inspired in Alec by the stallion recalls the boyhood reaction of Farley to the legendary racehorse Man O' War, whose stable he visited with his father on a summer trip to Kentucky.
As a boy, however, Farley never could own a horse or travel the way Alec did. Instead, Farley wrote The Black Stallion. Its subsequent success enabled him to realize the dreams of his boyhood. Farley published more than thirty books, almost all focused on horses. The Black Stallion was the first in a series of novels that continue to enjoy enormous success. Millions of books featuring the black horse and his counterpart, the island stallion Flame, have sold over the years in various editions and adaptations. There have been translations into more than twenty languages. The Black Stallion and The Black Stallion Returns were adapted into Francis Ford Coppola motion pictures, for which Farley served as consultant and promoter.
The Black Stallion had its beginnings in stories Farley wrote as a boy in Syracuse, New York, where he was born on June 26, 1915. His parents, Isabell Vermilyea Farley and Walter Farley, relocated the family to the New York City area when their son was in his teens. Farley loved horses, sports, and writing. He developed drafts of the novel during his student years at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, where he was on the track team. He continued to work on the novel as a student at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania.
Farley worked briefly for an advertising agency. He attended Columbia University, where he completed his manuscript with a professor's guidance. Random House published The Black Stallion in 1941 to reader acclaim. Months later Farley entered the United States Army. He spent much of World War II as a reporter for the...
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