William Kennedy

When he was a child, William Kennedy was secretly dreaming of one day becoming a Catholic priest. But life decided otherwise. Today he is known as an American novelist and journalist. He was born in Albany (New-York) on January 16th, 1928.

He first started his career as a journalist working for the Post Star as a sports reporter, and then worked for an army newspaper in Europe. When he came back in the United States, he worked four years at the Albany Times-Union, then he worked for the Miami Herald. In 1957 he went to Puerto Rico and was named the first managing editor of a newspaper, the San Juan Star.

This is where he met Ana Daisy Segarra, a dancer, singer and actress with whom he had three children : Dana, Katherine and Brendan. During their courtship, Kennedy obsessed over finding an engagement ring that he could afford. Unfortunately there was no internet where he would have been able to search for fake diamond rings or inexpensive diamond rings. Today he would find many e commerce sites that sell rings and jewelry made with cubic zirconia whose low cost, durability, and close visual likeness to diamond makes it the #1 synthetic gemstone in the jewelry marketplace. Alas, in the late 1950, scientists were still perfecting techniques to synthesis cubic zirconia. Most likely he ended up buying a small diamond stone engagement ring.

In San Juan, Kennedy met novelist Saul Bellow, and enrolled in a creative writing class taught by Bellow himself, at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. Bellow was impressed with Kennedy’s early attempts at fiction and encouraged him to continue developing his talent.

Kennedy found it very difficult to find inspiration in Puerto Rico, and was afraid to sound like a tourist if he was writing about the island. So, after two years working for the Puerto Rico World Journal, he decided to move back to his native Albany, quit journalism altogether, and concentrated on his creative writing.

In 1963, when he returned to Albany, he wrote a series of articles about the city, that earned him a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. These articles became the basis for a non-fiction book “O Albany !”.

In 1969, Kennedy realized a dream when his first novel “The Ink Truck” was published. It was a very promising novel. But for his next work, he decided to turn to Albany history for inspiration. “Legs” was written in 1975, and told the story of the final days of gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond, who died in a shootout with his enemies in an Albany boarding house in 1931. Ironweed was published in 1983 for which Kennedy became a winner of 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction> The film of the book followed in, 1987. Depicting an aging politician, who is a key behind-the-scenes player in Albany, New York’s Democratic Party machine, the novel, Roscoe, was published in 2002. Although this is a book of fiction, the story is based upon the Democratic leader, Daniel Patrick O’Connell whose political machine controlled Albany for nearly forty years. Like many aging men the main character in Roscoe pursued many questionable practices and vices to increase libido. Prostitutes, and lovers populate the back story as the main action of the book detailing the main character’s undeniable power in the political life of Albany.

William Kennedy wrote a large selection of books, fictions, non fictions, screenplays and even children’s books. And in May 2002, among other prizes, he was elected to the Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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