4 minute read

(Nancy) Eileen Heyes (1956-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights

Born 1956, in Los Angeles, CA; Education: California State University, Long Beach, B.A., 1980. Politics: "Generally leftie-progressive but not knee-jerk." Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, running, family tree climbing.


Agent—Sterling Lord Literistic, 65 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10012.


Editor and staff writer for newspapers, 1979-2004, including Los Angeles Times, The Desert Sun, Orange County Register, and News & Observer (Raleigh, NC). Freelance writer, 1990—. Children's book review columnist, News & Observer, 1995-2001. Visiting journalism teacher and school newspaper advisor, Wake County, NC, 1995-97, 2000-03.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America.


Children of the Swastika: The Hitler Youth, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1993.

Adolf Hitler, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1994.

Tobacco U.S.A.: The Industry behind the Smoke Curtain, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1999.

O'Dwyer & Grady Starring in: Acting Innocent, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

O'Dwyer & Grady Starring in: Tough Act to Follow, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals, including Los Angeles Times and Publishers Weekly.

Work in Progress

A contemporary young adult novel.


Eileen Heyes told SATA: "With each book I write, I try to learn something new and grow as a writer. My first three books were nonfiction, which expanded on the skills I had already gained as a journalist. What I always wanted to do, though, was write fiction. That was a different world. Instead of trying to remain objective and stay apart from what I was writing about, I now had to move deep inside my narrator. I had to mentally become an eleven-year-old boy named Billy O'Dwyer to tell the "O'Dwyer & Grady" stories in Billy's voice, not my own.

"My next novel—the one I'm working on now—involves three teenagers whose lives are rocked by a terrible event. Again, I have to become each of those characters while I'm writing or the story will have no truth. Fiction without truth isn't worth writing—or reading.

"I feel a kinship with teenagers because they are at an age where the big issues are coming into focus. It's scary, it's exhilarating, it's the most vulnerable time in our lives. The hurts and the discoveries of teen years last forever.

"I want my books to raise at least as many questions as they answer. From questions, truth emerges. From mistakes, good judgment develops. Young readers need these things more than they need any particular world-view stuffed into their heads."

Set in 1932, Eileen Heyes's Depression-era novel depicts two child actors who solve a perplexing mystery in O'Dwyer & Grady Starring in: Tough Act to Follow. (Cover art by Eric Bowman.)

Born and raised in California, Heyes spent more than a decade working as a journalist before she began writing for young people. In addition to her two books about Nazi Germany, she is the author of Tobacco, U.S.A.: The Industry behind the Smoke Curtain. This nonfiction work introduces readers to the history of tobacco use in America, how it is marketed to consumers, and how it affects the nation's economy and the individual's health. Booklist reviewer Jean Franklin described the book as "a well-researched, concise study of the U.S. tobacco industry and its murky history."

More recently Heyes has published fiction for the first time. Her two "O'Dwyer & Grady" juvenile mysteries are loosely based on her own father's experiences making movies as a child actor in the 1930s. In O'Dwyer & Grady Starring in: Tough Act to Follow and O'Dwyer & Grady Starring in: Acting Innocent two Depression-era child stars team together to solve mysteries while also performing in dramas. O'Dwyer and Grady make their debut in Acting Innocent. The year is 1932, and an actress has been killed in a Coney Island apartment. Circumstantial evidence points to a fellow actor, Roscoe Muldoon, who has worked with O'Dwyer in films. Recruiting Grady to help him, O'Dwyer seeks to find the real criminal—at great danger to himself. A Publishers Weekly critic wrote of Acting Innocent: "With their likable personalities and sassy repartee," O'Dwyer and Grady "prove to be worthy of the spotlight."

The pair of actor-sleuths return to action in Tough Act to Follow. On a visit to O'Dwyer's family in Massachusetts, the children uncover a skeleton and evidence of a missing treasure in an empty home. Once again their investigation leads them into perils that are based on the Depression era, including an encounter with a rumrunner. In her School Library Journal review of the book, Jean Gaffney noted that the Depression is "accurately portrayed," but through the characters' humanity, "readers can see that kids will be kids despite the hard times."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, December 15, 1999, Jean Franklin, review of Tobacco, U.S.A.: The Industry behind the Smoke Curtain, p. 775; May 15, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of O'Dwyer & Grady Starring in: Tough Act to Follow, p. 1665.

Publishers Weekly, April 1, 2002, review of O'Dwyer & Grady Starring In: Acting Innocent, p. 83.

School Library Journal, January, 2000, Joanne K. Cecere, review of Tobacco, U.S.A., p. 147; March, 2002, Terrie Dorio, review of Acting Innocent, p. 231; July, 2003, Jean Gaffney, review of Tough Act to Follow, p. 131.


Writers & Illustrators of North Carolina, http://www.wincbooks.com/eileenheyes.htm/ (September 23, 2003), "Eileen Heyes."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: James Heneghan (1930-) Biography - Personal to Rick Jacobson Biography - Personal