John Jakes was born in Chicago in 1932. He studied acting at Northwestern University, where he began writing professionally during his freshman year. Later he enrolled in a creative writing program at DePauw University and received a master's degree in American literature from Ohio State University. Early in his career Jakes wrote copy for a pharmaceutical company and various ad agencies, and authored dozens of short stories encompassing western, mystery and science fiction themes. In March 1973, Jakes commenced work on The Kent Family Chronicles, a multi-volume set portraying American history through the lives of a fictional family. Later works include North and South (1982), California Gold (1989), Homeland (1993), and American Dreams. Six of his major novels have been filmed as television miniseries, and North and South remains one of the highest rated miniseries in the history of television. Jakes is actively involved in the adaptation of North and South for the Broadway stage. John Jakes has been hailed as the godfather of the historical novel, and America's history teacher.