"No writer should minimize the factor that affects everyone, but is beyond control: luck.""The first treasure California began to surrender after the Gold Rush as the oldest: her land.""The house burned an hour before midnight on the last day of April. The wild, distant ringing of the fire bells woke George Hazard. He stumbled through the dark hallway, then upstairs to the mansion tower, and stepped outside into the narrow balcony.""The pain comes from knowing that we have never been safe, and therefore will never be safe again. It comes from knowing we can never be so ignorant again. It comes from knowing we can never be children again. Losing innocence. Remembering heaven. That was the essence of hell."
Jakes was born in Chicago, Illinois. He first sold stories to pulp magazines while still in college in the early 1950s. He studied creative writing at DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, graduating in 1953. He then earned an M.A. in American literature from The Ohio State University.
Jakes published several stories and novels over the 20 years following completion of college, many of them fantasy fiction, science fiction and westerns and other sorts of historical fiction, while working in the advertising industry. In 1971, he began to write full time.
During this time, he was also a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America , a loose-knit group of heroic fantasy authors founded in the 1960s, some of whose works were anthologized in Lin Carter's Flashing Swords! anthologies.
He gained widespread popularity with the publication of his Kent Family Chronicles, which became a bestselling American Bicentennial Series of books in the mid to late 1970s, selling 55 million copies. He has since published several more popular works of historical fiction, most dealing with American history, including the North and South Trilogy about the U.S. Civil War, which sold 10 million copies and was turned into an ABC-TV miniseries.
The Bastard was adapted as a television miniseries by Universal Pictures Television as the first offering of the highly successful syndicated package, Operation Prime Time (1978). The North and South trilogy was made into three miniseries on ABC in the 1980s and 1990s.