Belletrist Theodore Taylor is widely credited with virtually inventing the contemporary young adult novel. As the author of more than 50 titles -- the preponderance written for adolescents -- Taylor saw a large number of his books adapted for the screen.
Born June 23, 1921, in Statesville, NC, Taylor migrated with his family to nearby Craddock, NC, at ten years old. With writing in his blood from a markedly early age, Taylor landed a job in 1934, as the author of a high-school sports column in a local paper, at a salary of 50 cents per week. Later, he dropped out of high school -- unable to pass a mathematics examination -- opting instead to pursue writing full-time. Taylor enlisted in the merchant marines during WWII, received a commission, and returned to the Navy for the duration of the Korean War, biding his time, in the interim, as a Tinseltown press agent and a freelance writer. He authored several nonfiction books throughout the 1950s and '60s, but did not turn to young-adult fiction until 1968, when he decided to flesh out a haunting WWII anecdote into a novel. The resultant work, entitled The Cay (1969), spun the tale of an 11-year-old Dutch boy, shipwrecked on a South Seas island with an African-American man, and the friendship that evolves between the two. The Cay became a contemporary classic, and required reading for many years in the public-school curricula of 38 states. In 1974, scenarist Russell Thatcher and director Patrick Garland brought the novel to the small screen for NBC, in a critically acclaimed, hour-long version that stars Alfred Lutter III and James Earl Jones as the two leads.
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Additional Taylor novels to reach the screen included his 1987 adult book The Stalker -- the Rambo-like story of a marine who chases his daughter's murderer to Paraguay -- (made into the 1991 film Diplomatic Immunity, with Bruce Boxleitner), and his 1973 young adult novel The Maldonado Miracle. The latter, written and directed by actress Salma Hayek in 2002 (and starring Peter Fonda and Mare Winningham), concerns an illegal Mexican immigrant who slips across the border and into an American church while searching for his father, and accidentally triggers a religious "miracle" by dripping blood onto a Christ statue from high above the pulpit.
In addition to his authorship of novels, Taylor penned the script for the 1973 George Seaton-directed comedy Western Showdown. That picture stars Dean Martin and Rock Hudson as a sheriff and train robber at each other's throats in the Old West. Theodore Taylor died on October 26, 2006, in Laguna Beach, CA, from complications of a heart attack. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi