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Paul Theroux

Paul Edward Theroux was born on April 10, 1941, in Medford, Massachusetts.  The son of a French-Canadian father and an Italian mother, he was one of seven children.  Never much of an athlete in school, he spent most of his childhood reading.  He once said that the thought of becoming a writer never entered his head, since he believed that writing was "incompatible with being a man--money is masculinity."

Theroux, who grew up Catholic, left Medford "the first chance I had."  He attended the University of Maine where he wrote anti-Vietnam war editorials and refused to join the required Reserved Officers Training Corps.  He transferred to the University of Massachusetts and took a creative writing course from poet Joseph Langland.   He was graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963.

At Syracuse University, Theroux trained for the Peace Corps and then lectured for a short while at the University of Urbino in Italy.  He was sent to Malawi, Africa (then called the Nyasaland Protectorate, under British rule), where he taught at Soche Hill College and wrote sentimental articles for the Christian Science Monitor.  He also wrote articles for Playboy, Esquire, and the Atlantic Monthly.  He won the Playboy Editorial Award for Best Story four times (in '72, '76, '77, and '79).

In 1964, Theroux was involved in a failed coup d'etat of the Malawi president-dictator and was thrown out of the Peace Corps.  Yet, he had obviously fallen in love with Africa.  He returned to teach English at Makerere University in Kampala, Ugandam where he met not only his future wife, Anne Castle, a schoolteacher from London, but also V. S. Naipaul, 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Naipaul soon became his mentor.

Theroux's first novel, Waldo, sold about 4000 copies.  He went on to write Fong and The Indians, published in 1968, Murder in Mount Holly, and Girls at Play, a novel about "the futility of African politics and the disintegration of tribal life."  When an angry mob at a demonstration threatened to overturn the car in which his pregnant wife was riding, Theroux made the decision to leave Africa.

Theroux next taught at the University of Singapore, where he wrote his fifth novel, Jungle Lovers.  While there, he realized that he had enough of the monotony of teaching and decided to become a professional writer.  His wife got a job in London and he taught one last course at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1972.  Both Sinning With Annie and a criticism of V. S. Naipaul's early works were published in 1972.  He wrote Saint Jack, a novel about his time in Singapore, while living in the English countryside of Dorset.  Saint Jack was made into a film by Peter Bogdanovich, starring Ben Gazzara as the main character.  Theroux's seventh novel, The Black House, is a macabre tale set in the English countryside.

The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia was Theroux's first travel novel and also the first novel to distinguish him as a well-known writer.  The book was a best seller (selling 35,000 copies).  It was also a main selection for the Book-of-the Month Club.

The author went on to write The Family Arsenal (1976), Picture Palace (1978,) which won the prestigious Whitbread Award, and The Mosquito Coast (1982), which won the James Tait Black Award and the Yorkshire Post Best Novel of the Year Award.  Mosquito Coast was later (1986) made into a movie directed by Peter Weir, starring Harrison Ford as the main character.  Theroux also published three collections of short stories that mirrored some if his adventures while abroad: The Consul's File (1977), World's End (1980), and The London Embassy (1983). 

At the request of his two sons, Theroux wrote two children's stories : A Christmas Card (1978) and London Snow: A Christmas Story (1979).  In 1977, he won an award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. 

Theroux currently divides his time between Cape Cod and Hawaii, where he lives with his second wife.  He also claims to have taken up his second profession: beekeeping, selling his honey under the brand name Oceania Ranch Pure Hawaiian Honey.

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