Leon Uris

Leon Marcus Uris (August 3, 1924 – June 21, 2003) was an American novelist, known for his historical fiction and the deep research that went into his novels.

His two bestselling books were Exodus (published in 1958) and Trinity (published in 1976).

At age six, Uris reportedly wrote an operetta inspired by the death of his dog. He attended schools in Norfolk, Virginia and Baltimore, but never graduated from high school, and failed English three times. When he was 17 and in his senior year of high school, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served in the South Pacific, where he was stationed in New Zealand, and fought as a radioman in combat on Guadalcanal and Tarawa from 1942 through 1945. While recuperating from malaria in San Francisco, he met Betty Beck, a Marine sergeant; they married in 1945.

Coming out of the service, he worked for a newspaper, writing in his spare time. Esquire magazine, in 1950, bought an article, and he began to devote himself to writing more seriously. Drawing on his experiences in Guadalcanal and Tarawa, he produced the best-selling, Battle Cry, a novel depicting the toughness and courage of U.S. Marines in the Pacific. He then went to Warner Brothers in Hollywood helping to write the movie, which was extremely popular with the public, if not the critics. He went on to write The Angry Hills, a novel set in war-time Greece.

His best-known work may be Exodus, which was published in 1958. Most sources indicate Uris, motivated by an intense interest in Israel, financed his research for the novel by selling the film rights in advance to MGM and by writing newspaper articles about the Sinai campaign. It is said that the book involved two years of research, and involved thousands of interviews.Exodus illustrated the history of Palestine from the late 19th century through the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.

It was a worldwide best-seller, translated into a dozen languages, and was made into a feature film in 1960, starring Paul Newman, directed by Otto Preminger, as well as into a short-lived Broadway musical (12 previews, 19 performances) in 1971. Uris’ novel Topaz was adapted for the screen and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Uris’s subsequent works included: Mila 18, about the Warsaw ghetto uprising; Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin, a chronicle which ends with the lifting of the Berlin Blockade in 1949; Trinity, about Irish nationalism and the sequel, Redemption, covering the early 20th century and World War I; QB VII, about the role of a Polish doctor in a German concentration camp; and The Haj, with insights into the history of the Middle East. He wrote the screenplays for Battle Cry and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.