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James Lincoln Collier (1928–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

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(Charles Williams)

Personal

Born 1928, in New York, NY; Education: Hamilton College, A.B., 1950. Hobbies and other interests: "I have been deeply involved in jazz from youth and continue to work as a jazz musician regularly."

Addresses

Agent—c/o William Deiss, John Hawkins and Associates, 71 W. 23rd St., New York, NY 10010.

Career

Writer. Magazine editor, 1952–58. Military service: U.S. Army, 1950–51; became private.

Writings

FICTION; FOR CHILDREN

The Teddy Bear Habit; or, How I Became a Winner, illustrations by Lee Lorenz, Norton (New York, NY), 1967.

Rock Star, Four Winds (Bristol, FL), 1970.

Why Does Everybody Think I'm Nutty?, Grosset (New York, NY), 1971.

It's Murder at St. Basket's, Grosset (New York, NY), 1972.

Rich and Famous: The Further Adventures of George Stable, Four Winds (Bristol, FL), 1975.

Give Dad My Best, Four Winds (Bristol, FL), 1976.

Planet out of the Past, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1983.

When the Stars Begin to Fall, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1986.

Outside Looking In, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.

The Winchesters, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1988.

My Crooked Family, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.

The Jazz Kid, Puffin (New York, NY), 1996.

The Corn Raid: A Story of the Jamestown Settlement, Jamestown Publishers (Lincolnwood, IL), 2000.

The Worst of Times: A Story of the Great Depression, Jamestown Publishers (Lincolnwood, IL), 2000.

Chipper, Marshall Cavendish/Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Wild Boy, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2002.

Me and Billy, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2004.

The Empty Mirror, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.

HISTORICAL NOVELS FOR CHILDREN; WITH BROTHER, CHRISTOPHER COLLIER

My Brother Sam Is Dead, Four Winds (Bristol, FL), 1974.

The Bloody Country, Four Winds (Bristol, FL), 1976.

The Winter Hero, Four Winds (Bristol, FL), 1978.

James Lincoln Collier

Jump Ship to Freedom, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1981.

War Comes to Willy Freeman, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1983.

Who Is Carrie?, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1984.

The Clock, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1991.

With Every Drop of Blood, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1994.

NONFICTION; FOR CHILDREN

Battleground: The United States Army in World War II, Norton (New York, NY), 1965.

A Visit to the Fire House, photographs by Yale Joel, Norton (New York, NY), 1967.

Which Musical Instrument Shall I Play?, photographs by Yale Joel, Norton (New York, NY), 1969.

Danny Goes to the Hospital, photographs by Yale Joel, Norton (New York, NY), 1970.

Practical Music Theory: How Music Is Put Together from Bach to Rock, Norton (New York, NY), 1970.

The Hard Life of the Teenager, Four Winds (Bristol, FL), 1972.

Inside Jazz, Four Winds (Bristol, FL), 1973.

Jug Bands and Hand-Made Music, Grosset (New York, NY), 1973.

The Making of Man: The Story of Our Ancient Ancestors, Four Winds (Bristol, FL), 1974.

Making Music for Money, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1976.

CB, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1977.

The Great Jazz Artists, illustrations by Robert Andrew Parker, Four Winds (Bristol, FL), 1977.

Louis Armstrong: An American Success Story, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1985.

Duke Ellington, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1991.

Jazz: An American Saga, Holt (New York, NY), 1997.

The Sitting Bull You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

The George Washington You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

The Frederick Douglass You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

The Clara Barton You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

The Alexander Hamilton You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

The Abraham Lincoln You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

The Tecumseh You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

The Susan B. Anthony You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

The Mark Twain You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

The Louis Armstrong You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

The Eleanor Roosevelt You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

The Benjamin Franklin You Never Knew, illustrated by Greg Copeland, Children's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Gunpowder and Weaponry, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Vaccines, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Clocks, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Steam Engines, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Electricity and the Light Bulb, Marshall Cavendish Benchmark (New York, NY), 2005.

The Automobile, Marshall Cavendish Benchmark (New York, NY), 2005.

NONFICTION; "DRAMA OF AMERICAN HISTORY" SERIES; WITH CHRISTOPHER COLLIER

Clash of Cultures: Prehistory to 1638, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Paradox of Jamestown, 1585 to 1700, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The French and Indian War, 1660 to 1763, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The American Revolution, 1763 to 1783, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Pilgrims and Puritans, 1620 to 1676, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Creating the Constitution, 1787, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Building a New Nation, 1789 to 1803, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Andrew Jackson's America, 1821 to 1850, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Cotton South and the Mexican War, 1835 to 1850, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Jeffersonian Republicans, 1800 to 1820, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Civil War, 1860 to 1866, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Road to the Civil War, 1831 to 1861, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Rise of Industry: 1860 to 1900, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 1999.

A Century of Immigration: 1820 to 1924, Marshall Cavendish/Benchmark Books (Tarrytown, NY), 1999.

Indians, Cowboys, and Farmers and the Battle for the Great Plains, 1865 to 1910, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2000.

The United States Enters the World Stage: From Alaska through World War I, 1867 to 1919, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Progressivism, the Great Depression, and the New Deal, 1901 to 1941, Benchmark/Cavendish (Tarrytown, NY), 2000.

The Rise of the Cities, Cavendish/Benchmark (Tarrytown, NY), 2000.

World War II, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The Changing Face of America, 1945 to 2000, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2001.

The United States in the Cold War, Benchmark/Cavendish (Tarrytown, NY), 2002.

The Middle Road: American Politics, 1945 to 2000, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2002.

FOR ADULTS

Cheers (nonfiction), Avon (New York, NY), 1960.

Somebody up There Hates Me (humor), Macfadden, 1962.

The Hypocritical American: An Essay on Sex Attitudes in America, Bobbs-Merrill, 1964.

(With others) Sex Education U.S.A.: A Community Approach, Sex Information and Education Council of the United States, 1968.

The Making of Jazz: A Comprehensive History, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1978.

Louis Armstrong: An American Genius, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1983, published as Louis Armstrong: A Biography, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1984.

(With brother, Christopher Collier) Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787, Random House (New York, NY), 1986.

Duke Ellington, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Benny Goodman and the Swing Era, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.

The Rise of Selfishness in the United States, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Jazz: The American Theme Song, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Also author, under pseudonym Charles Williams, of Fires of Youth. Contributor of numerous articles to periodicals, including Reader's Digest, New York Times Magazine, Village Voice, and Esquire.

Adaptations

My Brother Sam Is Dead was adapted as a record, a cassette, and a filmstrip with cassette.

Sidelights

James Lincoln Collier is a prolific writer of fiction and nonfiction for both adults and children. Notable among his works for young people are volumes of nonfiction informed by his background in music and his interest in American history, fictional works portraying young male narrators, and historical novels and nonfiction written in Collier takes a break from straight-up history to pen this haunting story of an orphaned teen who discovers that his troublemaking twin is haunting the cemetery of his small New England town. (Cover illustration by Oliver Hunter/Photonica.)collaboration with his brother, historian Christopher Collier. While Collier's nonfiction has been hailed as educational and well written, his novels are often lauded for their exciting, fast-paced plots and their depiction of characters who grapple with moral dilemmas and unpleasant parental figures. Praising Me and Billy, which focuses on two orphans who survive by their wits during the American Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, School Library Journal reviewer Douglas P. Davey praised the book as "a small gem from an award-winning author."

Collier was born in 1928, into a family of writers. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1951, he moved to New York City, and supported himself as a magazine editor while he focused on eventually earning a living from his writing. He sold articles to magazines and in 1960 had the first of several books for adults published. In the mid-1960s Collier decided to try his hand at children's literature, "a choice," according to Hughes Moir in Language Arts, "he has never regretted."

Collier's first book for a young audience, Battleground: The United States Army in World War II, is a nonfiction work that discusses the military maneuvers conducted in Europe during World War II. Many other nonfiction works have followed during his career, with music and musicians among his favorite topics. Discussing Practical Music Theory: How Music Is Put Together from Bach to Rock, School Library Journal reviewer Loretta B. Jones wrote that Collier has created a "lucid, step-by-step exposition of musical theory for dedicated music students." The writer has also earned praise for Inside Jazz, a 1973 book that Loraine Alterman in the New York Times Book Review called "as good a verbal explanation as I've seen about jazz and its distinguishing features." The author's other books on music include the historical overview Jazz: An American Saga as well as the biographies The Great Jazz Artists, Louis Armstrong: An American Success Story, and Duke Ellington.

In addition to producing musician biographies, Collier has authored a number of books on notable Americans from history in a related collection that includes The Abraham Lincoln You Never Knew, The Eleanor Roosevelt You Never Knew, and The Frederick Douglass You Never Knew. Noting in School Library Journal that the series addresses and debunks several popular myths that have grown up about the individuals covered, Rita Soltan added that Collier's "free-flowing style … elicits compassion, understanding, and awareness" by humanizing his subject. While writing that the books are geared for readers who know little about their subjects, Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan explained that in his biography of Alexander Hamilton Collier focuses on the fact that Hamilton was "born poor and orphaned as a child," adding that the story of Hamilton's rise to prominence as a father of the new republic is "readable and informative."

Collier has also joined his brother, Christopher Collier, in creating a number of nonfiction titles in the "Drama of American History" series, which traces U.S. history from the settling of the Americas and the American Revolution through the U.S. Civil War, the cold war, and into the twenty-first century. In this multi-volume overview the coauthors focus on an array of historical topics, including the French and Indian War, the settling of Jamestown, the framing of the U.S. Constitution, the importance of cotton in the Southern economy, the rise of American industry, the situation of Native Americans, U.S. involvement in the two world wars, immigration, and the impact of political movements such as Progressivism. Reviewing one of the first titles in the series, Building a New Nation, 1789–1801, Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan called the entire series "well-written." Of The Rise of Industry, 1860–1900, Phelan noted this volume, like other books in the series, has "the visual appeal of colorful graphics and good layout." Writing in School Library Journal, Patricia Ann Owens found Indians, Cowboys, and Farmers and the Battle for the Great Plains, 1865–1910 to be "American history at its most basic," and dubbed The Rise of the Cities, 1820–1920 a work "that focuses on the broad themes of history rather than facts and dates."

Collier's list of writings includes fiction as well as nonfiction, and his first effort, The Teddy Bear Habit; or, How I Became a Winner, details how teenager George Stable's obsession with his teddy bear leads to his involvement in a jewel theft. The book's suspenseful plot and comic scenes of adventure prompted Jerome Beatty, Jr., writing in the New York Times Book Review to call The Teddy Bear Habit "a heck of an exciting story." A sequel, Rich and Famous: The Further Adventures of George Stable, also earned high marks from reviewers. "George is … consistently perceptive, and often humorous, [in his] observations of people and situations," wrote Donald A. Colberg in School Library Journal.

While his first fiction works were humorous, many of Collier's more recent novels concern young people struggling to overcome adversity, which often appears in the form of an unsavory parent. Give Dad My Best finds a boy forced to care for his family because his father is a down-and-out musician, while in The Winchesters Collier presents a boy caught in the middle of a dispute between his wealthy relatives and a town in economic peril. In My Crooked Family, set in 1910, Collier depicts a young boy's efforts to triumph over poverty and negligent parents, while a young teen living New England several decades later finds himself haunted by ghosts from his delinquent past in The Empty Mirror. The Jazz Kid tells the story of Paulie Horvath and how his love of jazz transforms his life from a dead-end, blue-collar existence to the fulfillment of a career in music.

In The Corn Raid: A Story of the Jamestown Settlement Collier offers up the story of twelve-year-old Richard's
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efforts to overcome the harsh realities of colonial life. Richard is an indentured servant living in fear of the master who continually beats him. Discovering that the English are planning a raid on a local Indian tribe, Richard warns the natives, but feels guilty enough later to admit to his master what he has done. When the angry man begins to beat the boy, Richard finally stands up to such brutal treatment and begins to plan for the day when he will be free. Also set in the past, Me and Billy follows twelve-year-old Possum and his best friend Billy after they run away from an orphanage and encounter a variety of people on their way to California in the hopes of striking it rich during the gold rush. Reviewing The Corn Raid in School Library Journal, Shawn Brommer judged that "history takes precedence over story." Lighter in tone, Me and Billy "packs a wallop of exciting adventures and plot twists," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic, while Booklist reviewer GraceAnne A. DeCandido predicted that the novel will appeal to older preteens because "elements of tall tale abound and the language is fast and funny." Noting Possum's growth as a person when he realizes that his life choices differ from those of his less-honest friend, Davey concluded in his School Library Journal review of Me and Billy that Collier's "wonderful use of vernacular and the friendship/tension" that develops between Possum and Billy make the novel stand out.

Collier has collaborated on several highly esteemed books of historical fiction with his brother Christopher, a distinguished historian. Most popular among their novels set in the Revolutionary War era is My Brother Sam Is Dead; other books include The Winter Hero, War Comes to Willy Freeman, and Who Is Carrie? The success of these books rests, according to Moir in Language Arts, on both Christopher's ability to provide the story with historically accurate data and James's talent for fashioning "out of raw events a story that is fast-moving and highly readable." In the 1992 novel The Clock, set in Connecticut in the early nineteenth century, fifteen-year-old Annie Steele is sent by her father to work in a woolen mill in order to pay off the man's chronic debts. The story involves Annie's dealings with the villainous mill boss, and it touches on historical issues such as patriarchal power and the country's gradual change from agrarian to industrial modes of production. Reviewing the title in Publishers Weekly, a contributor concluded that The Clock "succeeds not only as historical fiction, but also as a riveting story of the tragic romance and hard-won victory of one teenaged girl." A further fiction title coauthored with Christopher Collier is With Every Drop of Blood, a Civil War tale about a Southern youth captured by Northern forces who comes to respect and like the black Union soldier guarding him. Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman noted that the theme of "my enemy, my friend is at the core of this docu-novel of the Civil War." Rochman further noted that it is "the large canvas that will draw readers to the story."

Collier professes a deep appreciation of children's literature. Expressing his fondness for the craft, he was quoted by Moir as noting: "The 'real' books written today are written for children…. The author [of children's books] can deliver more than just a good read, but also a view of the world."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 13, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.

Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Volume 2, Beacham Publishing (Osprey, FL), 1998.

Children's Literature Review, Volume 3, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1978.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 30, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1984.

Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, edited by Sally Holmes Holtze, H.W. Wilson (New York, NY), 1983.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 15, 1966, p. 582; June 1, 1976, p. 1403; February 1, 1992, p. 1026; July, 1994, Hazel Rochman, review of With Every Drop of Blood, pp. 1935–1936; April 15, 1998, p. 1442; February 15, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of Building a New Nation, 1789–1801, p. 1061; February 15, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Rise of Industry, 1860–1900, p. 1106; March 15, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Rise of the Cities, 1820–1920, p. 1396; November 1, 2002, Todd Morning, review of Wild Boy, p. 490; October 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Alexander Hamilton You Never Knew, p. 423; September 15, 2004, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Me and Billy, p. 231; October 15, 2004, Linda Perkins, review of The Empty Mirror, p. 403.

English Journal, September, 1992, p. 95.

Horn Book, April, 1975, p. 152; February, 1976, p. 48; March-April, 1992, p. 203; January-February, 1995, pp. 57-58.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2004, review of The Empty Mirror, p. 803; September 15, 2004, review of Me and Billy, p. 912.

Language Arts, March, 1978, Hughes Moir, "Profile: James and Christopher Collier—More than Just a Good Read," p. 373.

Library Journal,.

New York Times Book Review, March 12, 1967, Jerome Beatty, Jr., review of The Teddy Bear Habit; or, How I Became a Winner, p. 28; October 25, 1970, p. 38; February 25, 1973, p. 10; December 30, 1973, Loraine Alterman, review of Inside Jazz, p. 10; November 3, 1974, p. 26; May 2, 1976, p. 26; February 13, 1977, p. 25; February 14, 1982, p. 28; May 8, 1983, p. 37; March 2, 1986, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, March 8, 1971, p. 71; October 16, 1972, p. 49; November 7, 1977, p. 83; May 25, 1984, p. 59; July 5, 1985, p. 67; November 28, 1986, p. 77; March 13, 1987, p. 86; October 28, 1988, p. 82; July 25, 1991, p. 55; January 1, 1992, review of The Clock, p. 56; July 11, 1994, p. 79; June 17, 1996, p. 33.

School Library Journal, December, 1970, Loretta B. Jones, review of Practical Music Theory: How Music Is Put Together from Bach to Rock, p. 58; November, 1975, Donald A. Colberg, review of Rich and Famous: The Further Adventures of George Stable, p. 72; March, 1976, p. 111; December, 1976, p. 53; September, 1977, p. 142; November, 1977, p. 68; September, 1978, p. 132; January, 1984, p. 73; October, 1985, p. 169; November, 1986, p. 98; January, 1989, p. 92; October, 1991, p. 142; August, 1994, p. 168; April, 1999, p. 145; April, 2000, Shawn Brommer, review of The Corn Raid: A Story of the Jamestown Settlement, p. 130; July, 2001, Patricia Ann Owens, review of Indians, Cowboys, and Farmers and the Battle for the Great Plains,1865–1910, p. 120; April, 2002, Kathleen Simonetta, review of The Changing Face of American Society, 1945–2000, p. 168; November, 2002, Lee Bock, review of Wild Boy, p. 160; January, 2004, Rita Soltan, review of The Abraham Lincoln You Never Knew, p. 143; March, 2004, Lynn Evarts, review of Vaccines, p. 228.

Teaching K-8, January, 1988, p. 35; October, 2004, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of The Empty Mirror, p. 159; January, 2005, Douglas P. Davey, review of Me and Billy, p. 126.

ONLINE

Balkin Buddies Web site, http://www.balkinbuddies.com/ (December 1, 2005), "James Lincoln Collier."

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over 6 years ago

To whom it may consern,

Me and my classmates are reading "Jump ship to Freedom we just started and it is really great! I have a question how did you come up with the names? Like Birdsey and captain Ivers.

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11 months ago

In the book "Practical Music Theory" by James Lincoln Collier, 1971 printing, Grosset Library Edition, A W.W.NORTON BOOK Published by GROSSET & DUNLAP, INC. New York; on page 69, the Circle of Fifths appears to run counterclockwise. Is there a reason for this, or is it simply a mistake? Maybe a circle of 4ths for bass players was put there by mistake?
Thanks,
Ron

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about 6 years ago

I am trying to obtain a photo of James Lincoln Collier to use in a college textbook Can you help us?

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over 5 years ago

My current copy of The Teddy Bear Habit doesn't have illustrations and my granddaughter wants to see if Lee Lorenz's interpretation of Wiggsy fits hers. Do you know where I can find some of the original illustrations from the book, on the internet?