By Dave Astor
Some writers have been columnists AND novelists. You’re probably aware of a few who’ve done both, while the names of others may surprise you. Let’s go alphabetically, shall we?
Iconic science-fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote or edited an astounding 500-plus books during his career, yet also found time to start a syndicated newspaper column in 1986 that he continued for several years. Science-related, of course.
Dave Barry, the NSNC’s 2013 Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award winner, is known mostly for the weekly syndicated humor column he used to write, and for his humor books. But the winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for commentary has also authored or co-authored sixteen novels.
Bruce Cameron, a great friend of the NSNC who has spoken at several of our conferences, is a purely a novelist to much of the general public. But the author of A Dog’s Purpose and other best-selling fictional works first made his name as a humor columnist.
Nineteenth-century writer Bret Harte was famous for California Gold Rush-themed short stories such as “The Outcasts of Poker Flats” and “The Luck of Roaring Camp.” But he also worked as a newspaper editor and columnist.
Carl Hiaasen, our 2010 Pyle winner, has spent thirty-plus years on two tracks: writing a column for The Miami Herald, and authoring more than twenty novels set in Florida. While some writers are more columnist than novelist, or more novelist than columnist, Hiaasen has almost equally balanced the two – and done both simultaneously rather than one for a while before switching.
Stephen King is among the most high-profile and prolific novelists of the past four decades – with Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, Misery, Under the Dome, 11/22/63, and many other books. Before all that, as a University of Maine student, King wrote a column for the campus newspaper called…“Steve King’s Garbage Truck”!
Leonard Pitts, Jr., our 2016 Pyle winner and a 2004 Pulitzer recipient for commentary, concentrated on column writing for many years. But he then added novels to his portfolio – authoring three that were published between 2009 and 2015.
Anna Quindlen had a prime spot as a Pulitzer-winning opinion columnist for The New York Times when she began also writing novels – eight in all between 1991 and 2016. She left the Times more than twenty years ago to concentrate on fiction, but did return to column writing for Newsweek magazine, from 1999 to 2009.
The great Mark Twain was a newspaper columnist for a time before becoming the author of iconic novels such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. In 1865 and 1866, Twain wrote a six-day-a-week column about San Francisco for the Territorial Enterprise of Virginia City, Nevada
Kurt Vonnegut authored fourteen novels – many of them classics, such as Slaughterhouse-Five – between 1952 and 1997. Also, from 1995 to 2005, he wrote columns for In These Times magazine.
Then there are/were novelists who worked as journalists, but not as columnists – including Geraldine Brooks, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Dorothy Parker, and John Steinbeck, among others.
And we shouldn’t forget NSNC- and Columnist Clubhouse-affiliated columnists and bloggers who have also written appealing novels — Kathy Eliscu, Robert Haught, Susan Moore Jordan, etc.!
Dave Astor writes the weekly “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com, blogs weekly at DaveAstorOnLiterature.com, and is the author of the 2017 book “Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia.”