Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on November 27, 1909 and educated at Harvard, James Agee crowded versatile literary activity into his short and troubled life. In addition to two novels, he wrote short stories, essays, poetry, and screenplays; he worked professionally as a journalist and film critic. Appropriately, he is best remembered for a work that combines several genres and literary approaches. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a documentary report on sharecropper life accompanied by vividly realistic photographs by Walker Evans, has been called "a great Moby Dick of a book" (New York Times Book Review). It may be considered an important precursor of the so-called nonfiction novel that was to gain prominence during the 1960s. The Morning Watch (1954), a novel in the tradition of portraits of artists-to-be, and A Death in the Family, a moving account of domestic life based on the loss of Agee's father belong to more conventional types of fiction. The 1960 dramatization of All the Way Home by Tad Mosel, won a Pulitizer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award; it was also cited by Life as the "Best American Play of the Season." Agee's work for the screen included his scripts for The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter. Agee on Film (1958-60) consists of a gathering of reviews and comments as well as five scripts. Prior to Laurence Bergreen's well-received 1984 biography of Agee, the principal source of information about his life was Letters of James Agee to Father Flye, a collection of seventy letters written by Agee to his instructor at St. Andrew's School and trusted friend throughout his life. The letters show Agee most often in a reflective, self-condemning mood. The final letters, written from the hospital where he was battling daily heart attacks, are touching, as are his sad reflections on the work he yet wanted to do. Agee died in New York of a heart attack on May 16, 1955. He was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for A Death in the Family.
John Richard Hersey was born in Tientsin, China on June 17, 1914 where he lived until 1925 when his family went back to the United States. Hersey worked as a journalist and war correspondent during World War II for Time Magazine and became well known from those writings on the war. He was Master at Pierson College at Yale from 1965 to 1970 and spent the following year as Writer-in-Residence at the American Academy in Rome. He was a past President of the Authors League of America and was elected by the membership of the American Academy of Arms and Letters to be their chancellor. Hersey's first novel was "A Bell for Adano," which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945. The following year he wrote "Hiroshima," which was an account of nuclear devastation and human suffering. Hersey was outspoken against the bombing, leading the fight to reclaim humanity, and spoke out against the nuclear arms race. Hersey was also interested and involved in American public education and he published "The Child Buyer" in 1960. "Key West Tales" was published in 1993. Hersey retired from Yale University and lived between Key West, Florida and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. On March 24, 1993, John Hersey died at his home in Key West leaving behind his wife Barbara, five children and six grandchildren.