Evan Shelby Connell Jr. (August 17, 1924 – January 10, 2013) was a U.S. novelist, short-story writer, essayist and author of epic historical works. He also published under the name Evan S. Connell Jr.
Evan S. Connell
|Born||Evan Shelby Connell Jr.|
August 17, 1924
Kansas City, Missouri
|Died||January 10, 2013 (aged 88)|
Santa Fe, New Mexico
|Notable works||Mrs. Bridge, Mr. Bridge, Son of the Morning Star|
In 2009, Connell was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize, for lifetime achievement. On April 23, 2010, he was awarded a Los Angeles Times Book Prize: the Robert Kirsch Award, for "a living author with a substantial connection to the American West, whose contribution to American letters deserves special recognition."
Connell was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the only son of Evan S. Connell, Sr. (1890–1974), a physician, and Ruth Elton Connell. He had a sister, Barbara (Mrs. Matthew Zimmermann), to whom he dedicated his novel Mrs. Bridge (1959). He graduated from Southwest High School in Kansas City in 1941. He started undergraduate work at Dartmouth College but joined the Navy in 1943 and became a pilot. After the end of World War II, he graduated from the University of Kansas in 1947, with a B.A. in English. He studied creative writing at Columbia University in New York and Stanford University in California. He never married, and lived and worked in San Francisco and Sausalito, California from 1954 to 1989, when he moved to Santa Fe, N.M.
Connell's novels Mrs. Bridge (1959) and Mr. Bridge (1969) are bittersweet, gently satirical portraits of a conventional, unimaginative upper middle-class couple living in Kansas City from the 1920s to the 1940s. The couple tries to live up to societal expectations and to be good parents, but they are sadly incapable of bridging the emotional distance between themselves and their children, and between each other.
Connell's 1960 novel, The Patriot, is the story of Melvin Isaacs, aged 17, and his experiences in naval aviation school during the Second World War. Melvin faces the terrifying reality of training and the likelihood of his "washing out" (failing). Melvin's attempts to communicate the realities of his experience to his father are rebuffed. The characters of Melvin and his father Jacob are similar in many respects to those of Douglas and Mr. Bridge. Though not well reviewed, The Patriot contains some rewarding social satire and impressive scenes of aviation.
Connell's 1984 sweeping account of George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Son of the Morning Star, earned critical acclaim, was a bestseller, and was adapted as a television film/miniseries in 1991. The film won four Emmy Awards.