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Book Discussion Guide: Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara: About the author

About the author

John Henry O'Hara was an American writer who was born in Pottsville, Pa. He initially made a name for himself with his short stories and later became a best-selling novelist. He was particularly known for an uncannily accurate ear for dialogue. He also a keen eye for, and wrote about, social status and class differences, particularly among the well-to-do.

O'Hara was the son of a prosperous doctor but his father died when O'Hara was 19, leaving him unable to afford college. By all accounts, this lack of a university education, particularly at a prestigious Ivy League school, affected O'Hara deeply for the rest of his life and served to hone the keen sense of social awareness that characterizes his work. He worked as a reporter for various newspapers before moving to New York City, where he began to write short stories for magazines. In his early days he was also a film critic, a radio commentator, and a press agent; later, with his reputation established, he became a newspaper columnist. O'Hara received much critical acclaim for his short stories, more than 200 of which, beginning in 1928, appeared in The New Yorker. Many of these stories (and his later novels) were set in Gibbsville, Pa., a fictionalized version of Pottsville.