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(Janet) Taylor Caldwell (1900-1985) - wrote under the preudonyms Marcus Holland and Max Reiner - original name J. Miriam Reback


Anglo-American novelist, a prolific author of popular fiction, who used often in her works real historical events or persons. Taylor Caldwell's best-known works include Dynasty of Death (1938), an epic story about intrigues and alliances of two Pennsylvania families involved in the manufacture of armaments. Her last major novel, Answer as a Man (1980), told a story of a man who begins his rise to prestige and power in the midst of the Depression.

"You hard man," said Mr. Maggiotti.
"Learned it the hard way," Bernard would reply. "Men are bastards."
"God loves all men, Bernie."
"More fool he," said Bernie.

(from Answer as a Man)

Taylor Caldwell was born in Manchester, England, into a family of Scottish background. Her father was a commercial artist, who formerly worked for the Manchester (England) Guardian. Caldwell's family descended from the Clan of MacGregor of which the Taylors are a subsidiary clan. In 1907 she was brought to the Unites States with her brother. An uncle of hers, Henry Holland Caldwell, was a professor at the University of Florida just prior to his death.

Caldwell started to write stories at the age of eight. A creative child, she was first encouraged by his parents, but in her teens they began to believe that she couldn't make a career out of her writing and took paper and pencils away from her. Caldwell never completed high school, but she attended the University of Buffalo. In 1919 Caldwell married William F. Combs. They divorced in 1931 and Caldwell married Marcus Reback, an officer in the department of Justice, Buffalo; he died in 1970. A few years earlier a thug had broken into their home and fatally wounded him. The attacker had also pistol-whipper her; she was left deaf.  Between the years 1918 and 1919 she served in the United States Naval Reserve. From 1923 to 1924 she was a Court Reporter in New York State department of Labor in Buffalo, and from 1924 to 1931 a member of the Board of Special Inquiry at the Department of Justice in Buffalo.

With her second husband Marcus Reback, who served as the researcher,  Caldwell co-wrote several bestsellers, the first of which was Dynasty of Death. The story begins from the year 1837 and focuses on the entangled relationships of two families, who control a huge munitions trust. Joseph Barbour is a servant, who becomes a successful businessman and arms manufacturer. His son Martin is not interested in money, he is an idealist and altruist. Ernest, the elder son, is an egoist and believes that money is the greatest power in the world. Ernest loves Amy Drumhill, the niece of Gregory Sessions, owner of a steel factory. However, she marries Martin, who establishes a hospital, and dies in the civil war. Ernest's hardness ruins Joseph, and he is cursed by his mother. Dynasty of Death attracted wide attention when it was revealed, that behind the male pseudonym was a woman. The story was continued in The Eagles Gather (1949) and The Final Hour (1944).

As a writer Caldwell was praised of her intricately plotted and suspenseful stories, which depicted family tensions and the development of the US from agrarian society into leading industrial state of the world. Caldwell's heroes are self-made men of pronounced ethic background, such as the German immigrants in The Strong City (1942) and The Balance Wheel (1951). Her stories have dealt with ethnic, religious and personal intolerance (The Wide House, 1945), the failure of parental discipline (Let Love Come Last, 1949) and the conflict between the desire for power and money and the human values of love and sense of family, presented in such works as Melissa (1948), A Prologue to Love (1962) and Bright Flows the River (1978).

In her later works Caldwell explored the American Dream and wrote stories 'from rag to riches' course of life, among them Answer as a Man (1981). Caldwell's historical novels include The Arm and Darkness, a fictionalized account of Cardinal Richelieu, Pillar of Iron (1965), fictional biography of Cicero, the Roman senator and and orator, The Earth is the Lord's (1941), a fictional biography of Ghengis Khan. Though Hollywood bought the rights to many of her novels, they were not made into feature films. The Conqueror (1956), in which John Wayne played Ghengis Khan, was based on Oscar Millard's screenplay, not on Caldwell's novel.

Religious themes were prominent in several works. Answer as a Man begins with the clamour of the bells of a little church and end with renewed faith. "Jason raised his eyes and smiled. God is good. He moves mysteriously, as the priests say, but he has his ways, he has his ways! He is not the adversory of man. Man is, Jason thought. God is not to be understood by man. He is just to be trusted." (from Answer as a Man). In the story Jason Garrity pins his hopes on the building of a luxury hotel, but Caldwell deals also with politics and history ("Hell! though Jason. What can I, as a single individual, do to prevent calamity? Nothing. Taft is the safest man. He is not an imperialist, like Roosevelt. Nor a social fanatic like Wilson. I'll vote for Taft."). Dear and Glorious Physician (1959) was about St. Luke's search for God. "A portrait so moving and so eloquent I doubt it is paralleled elsewhere in literature," said a reviewer in The Boston Herald. Dialogues with the Devil (1967), possibly inspired by C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters (1942), was a study of good and evil. This work, a fictional correspondence between Lucifer and Michael, mixed in the dialogue old tales, a lost continent, and theological speculations.

--'"Childish raptures! said Lucifer, with scorn, his eyes flashing like lightning. "Are we indeed whimpering and craven children, or slaves? Can we be content with toys and little deliciousnesses? Are we not mind, as well as emotion? And is not the mind, of both angel and man, the noblest of possessions, and worth exercising. It is in our minds that we approach the closest of Him, Who is all Mind. Mind is the creator of all philosophy, all order, all beauty, all satisfaction, but emotion is the lowliest of the virtues, if it is a virtue at all. Mind has in it the capacity to know all things, or, at least, the minds of angels."' (from Dialogoues with the Devil)

Caldwell's books sold over thirty million copies. She was an outspoken conservative and for a time associated with the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby. Mostly she wrote at night, sometimes from 12 to 24 hours at a stretch. She received several awards, among them the National League of American Pen Woman gold medal (1948), Buffalo Evening News Award (1949), and Grand Prix Chatvain (1950).

Though Caldwell was first and foremost a writer, not a threat to the national security, the FBI maintained a file on her. During the 1960s and 1970s  Caldwell  contributed to the John Birch Society's magazine,  American  Opinion, which attracted aging conservatives and former McCarthyites and occasionally stirred up conspiracy theories. Caldwell argued that the income tax is unconstitutional and was created international bankers to destroy the dissidents, and that President Kennedy knew too much when he spoke of "the Gnomes of Zurich." It has been suggested that Joseph Armagh, the protagonist of Captains and Kings:  The Story of an American  Dynasty  (1972), was modelled after Joseph Kennedy. The plot chronicles the story of a penniless Irish immigrant, who comes to the United States in the mid-1800's, and becomes a wealthy and powerful business leader. In the NBC miniseries of the novel Lincoln laments before his assassination that the warring North and South should not fear each other but "the financial institution at their backs."

Caldwell's book of memoir, On Growing up Tough, came out in 1971. Jess Stearn, a journalist and paranormal writer, published in 1974 a book on her past lives, entitled In Search of Taylor Caldwell. The writer herself did not believe in reincarnation. "When you're dead, you're dead. At least, I hope there's no such thing as reincarnation," she once said in an interview. With Stearn she also collaborated in The Romance of Atlantis  (1975), based on a novel she first wrote when aged 12, and I, Judas (1977). Caldwell's first science fiction novel was The Devil's Advocate (1952), set in the America of the 1970s, where liberal democracy has turned into a Communist style police state. Actually the work, which had much in common with Ayn Rand's thought, was an apology for McCarthyism. Caldwell equated reds and liberals. "I'm perfectly willing to forgive the bastads," she declared in a letter to William F. Buckley, Jr., "after I've planted a good firecracker in their careers or rectums." The Listener (1960) and its sequel No One Hears but Him (1966) were Christian fantasies about a sanctuary, where people tell about their problems to the Man Who Listens.

In 1972 Caldwell married William E. Stancell, a retired real estate developer, with whom she settled in Ponte Vedra, Florida. They divorced next year, but Caldwell remained in the seaside community until 1974. Her fourth husband was William Robert Prestie, a Canadian and a former Trappist monk, whom she married in 1978. Caldwell continued writing until May 1980, when a stroke left her deaf and unable to speak. At the age of 80, she finished her 35th novel, and signed a two-book contract for $3,9 million. Caldwell died of pulmonary failure in Greenwich, Connecticut on August 30, 1985.

For further reading: In Search of Taylor Caldwell by Jess Stearn (1974); 'The Captains, the Kings, and Taylor Caldwell' by George F. Smith, in Writer's Yearbook (1980); Twentieth-Century Romance & Historical Writers, ed. by Lesley Henderson (1990); World Authors 1900-1950, Vol. 1, ed. by Martin Seymour-Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens (1996)

Selected works:

  • Dynasty of Death, 1938
    - Kuoleman kauppiaat 1-2 (suom. Aune Brotherus, 1939)
  • The Eagles Gather, 1940 (as Max Reiner)
  • Time No Longer, 1941
  • TThe Earth is the Lord's: A Tale of the Rise of Genghis Khan, 1941
    - Maa on herran: elämäkertaromaani (suom. Oiva Talvitie, Toivo Lyy, 1945)
  • The Strong City, 1942
  • The Arm and the Darkness, 1943
    - Vapauden miekka (suom. Pekka Häkli, 1948)
  • The Turnbulls, 1943
    - Eikä minulla olisi rakkautta (suom. Oiva Talvitie, 1948)
  • The Final Hour, 1944
  • The Wide House, 1945
    - Elämän virrassa (suom. Oiva Talvitie, 1949)
  • This Side of Innocence, 1946
  • Melissa, 1948
  • There Was A Time, 1948
  • Let Love Come Last, 1949
  • The Balance Wheel, 1951 (UK title: The Beautiful Is Vanished)
  • The Devil's Advocate, 1952
  • Maggie - Her Marriage, 1953
  • Never Victorious, Never Defeated, 1954
  • Your Sins and Mine, 1955
  • TTender Victory, 1956
  • The Sound of Thunder, 1958
  • Dear and Glorious Physician: A Novel About Saint Luke, 1959
  • The Listener, 1960 (UK title: The Man Who Listens)
  • A Prologue to Love, 1962
  • Grandmother and the Priests, 1963 (UK title: To See the Glory)
  • The Late Clara Beame, 1964
  • A Pillar of Iron, 1965
  • Wicked Angel, 1965
  • No One Hears But Him, 1966
  • Dialogues with the Devil, 1967
  • Testimony of Two Men, 1968
    - Kuuma elokuu (suom. Lea Karvonen, 1969)
    TV series 1977, prod. Operation Prime Time (OPT), Universal TV, dir. by Leo Penn, Larry Yust, teleplay by William Hanley, James M. Miller, Jennifer Miller, starring David Birney, Barbara Parkins, Steve Forrest, Ralph Bellamy
  • Great Lion of God, 1970
  • On Growing Up Tough, 1971 (UK title: Growing Up Tough)
  • Captains and the Kings: The Story of an American Dynasty, 1972
    - TV series 1976, prod. Roy Huggins-Public Arts Productions, Universal TV, adaptation by Stephen and Elinor Karpf, directed by Douglas Heyes, Allen Reisner, starring Richard Jordan (Joseph Armagh), Perry King, Patty Duke, Roy Bolger, Blair Brown, John Carradine, Henry Fonda 
  • To Look and Pass, 1973
  • Glory and the Lightning, 1974
  • The Romance of Atlantis, 1975 (with Jess Stearn)
  • Ceremony of the Innocent, 1976
  • I, Judas, 1977 (with Jess Stearn)
  • Bright Flows the River, 1978
  • Answer As A Man, 1981

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