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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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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