"I have been writing for 50 years and readers still read my first book from when I was in the Marine Corps." -- 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, in 1976.
"English of course is your major tool, but it is not nearly so important as other aspects of writing for example you have to have some natural ability you can't buy it no one puts it there you're born with it.""I am very proud of this work because it is more about the meaning of the Easter Rising and its relationship to what this whole century has been about, people liberating themselves, freeing themselves.""I do not write for an audience.""I enjoy writing, sometimes; I think that most writers will tell you about the agony of writing more than the joy of writing, but writing is what I was meant to do.""I essentially write for myself.""I have drawn inspiration from the Marine Corps, the Jewish struggle in Palestine and Israel, and the Irish.""I was a terrible English student.""I was too heavy to be a jockey and too honest to be a producer, so I became a writer.""It is extremely important to know what you don't want to find.""My first book was rejected nine times. It turned out to be a best seller, Battle Cry? in 1953.""Often we have no time for our friends but all the time in the world for our enemies.""Research to me is as important or more important than the writing. It is the foundation upon which the book is built.""So writing is a very, very difficult position to obtain... and retain.""Usually a good part of the people trying it end up not making it.""Writing, basically breaks down to relationships between people and that is what you write about.""You can try to reach an audience, but you just write what comes out of you and you just hope that it is accepted. You do not write specifically to a generation."
Leon Uris was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Jewish-American parents Wolf William and Anna (Blumberg) Uris. His father, a Polish-born immigrant, was a paperhanger, then a storekeeper. William spent a year in Palestine after World War I before entering the United States. He derived his surname from Yerushalmi, meaning "man of Jerusalem." (His brother Aron, Leon Uris' uncle, took the name Yerushalmi) "He was basically a failure," Uris later said of his father. "I think his personality was formed by the harsh realities of being a Jew in Czarist Russia. I think failure formed his character, made him bitter."
At the age of six, Uris reportedly wrote an operetta inspired by the death of his dog. Uris attended schools in Norfolk, Virginia and Baltimore, but never graduated from high school, and failed English three times. When Uris was seventeen and in his senior year of high school, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Uris enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served in the South Pacific as a radioman (in combat) at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and New Zealandfrom 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. In 1950, Esquire magazine 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. Later he went on to write.The Angry Hills, a novel set in war-time Greece.
According to one source, in the early 1950s he was hired by an American public relations firm to go to Israel and "soak up the atmosphere and create a novel about it". That novel would be Exodus, which came out in 1958 and became his best known work. Others say that Uris, motivated by an intense interest in Israel, financed his own research for the novel by selling the film rights in advance to MGM and writing 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' subsequent works included: Mila 18, a story of the Warsaw ghetto uprising; A Novel of Berlin, which reveals the detailed work by British and American intelligence services in planning for the occupation and pacification of post WWII Germany; Trinity, an epic novel about Ireland's struggle for independence; QB VII, a novel about the role of a Polish doctor in a German concentration camp ; and The Haj, with insights into the history of the Middle East and the secret machinations of foreigners which have led to today's turmoil.
He also wrote the screenplays for Battle Cry and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Uris was married three times: to Betty Beck, with whom he had three children, from 1945 through their divorce in 1968; Margery Edwards in 1969, who died a year later, and Jill Peabody in 1970, with whom he had two children, and divorced in 1989.
Leon Uris died of renal failure at his Long Island home on Shelter Island, aged 78.
Leon Uris's papers can be found at the Ransom Center, University of Texas in Austin. The collection includes all of Uris's novels, with the exception of The Haj and Mitla Pass, as well as manuscripts for the screenplay, Gunfight at the OK Corral.