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Allan Wesley Eckert (January 30, 1931 – July 7, 2011)[1] was an American writer who specialized in historical novels for adults and children, and was also a naturalist. His novel Incident at Hawk's Hill was initially marketed to adults and selected by Reader's Digest Condensed Books. A runner-up for the Newbery Medal in 1972, it was afterward marketed as a children's novel and adapted by Disney for a television movie known as The Boy Who Talked to Badgers (1975).

Eckert wrote several books of natural history. In addition, he wrote more than 225 episodes of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, for which he received an Emmy Award.

His numerous historical novels were popular, including several that were part of his series "The Winning of America". His A Time of Terror: The Great Dayton Flood (1965) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.[citation needed] In 1996 it was adapted for the stage as 1913: The Great Dayton Flood and premiered at Wright State University, also being produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He wrote the drama Tecumseh for an outdoor production at Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre near Chillicothe, OH that has been a destination for tourists every summer since 1973.[2]

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BiographyEdit

Eckert was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1931, and raised in the Chicago, Illinois area. He attended college near Bellefontaine, Ohio, and afterward was a longtime resident here.

As a young man, he hitchhiked around the United States, living off the land and learning about wildlife. He began writing about nature and American history at the age of thirteen. He eventually wrote numerous books for children and adults. His children's novel, Incident at Hawk's Hill, was a runner-up for the Newbery Medal in 1972.[3] One of his novels tells how the great auk became extinct.

Eckert published numerous novels of the Ohio Country frontier in what was called his "The Winning of America" Series, including accounts of frontiersmen and notable Native Americans, such as Tecumseh. He conducted extensive research for his works, but created fictional dialogue for his historical figures.

Eckert also wrote several unproduced screenplays, none of which was produced. He wrote more than 225 episodes of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, for which he received an Emmy Award.

In a 1999 poll conducted by the Ohioana Library Association, Allan W. Eckert and Toni Morrison shared the rank of "Favorite Ohio Writer of All Time."

Eckert died in his sleep on July 7, 2011, in Corona, California, at the age of 80.[1]

Dramatizations and adaptationsEdit

Eckert is the playwright of the outdoor drama entitled Tecumseh! which, in 1997, celebrated its 25th year of production at the multi-million-dollar Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheater near Chillicothe, Ohio. His book Blue Jacket was adapted as a drama of the same name designed for outdoor performances. It opened in 1982 at a facility outside Xenia, Ohio. The production eventually closed due to financial difficulties, but it was estimated to have generated more than nine million dollars yearly into the local economy of southwest Ohio.[4]

Eckert was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his book A Time of Terror: The Great Dayton Flood (1965).[citation needed] Decades later, in 1996 it was adapted for the stage as 1913: The Great Dayton Flood by W. Stuart McDowell and Timothy Nevits. It was performed at Wright State University, featuring recorded narration by actors Martin Sheen, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.[5] The production won a number of awards from the American College Theatre Festival XXIX at the Riffe Center, Columbus, Ohio. It opened the 1997 festival in the Kennedy Center, returning to Dayton that fall, where it played in the Victoria Theatre.[6]

CriticismEdit

While Eckert emphasized the historical basis of his books and stressed the years of research he conducted, he created dialogue and internal thought for his ostensibly historic figures. Reviewers have described his work as "an entertaining blend of fact and fiction."[7] What Eckert described as "narrative biography” was criticized by Kirkus Reviews as “an apparent euphemism for poetic license”, when discussing his book about Tecumseh.[8] A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh was described as "A biography that succeeds better as fiction".[8] The reviewer said that the book "in its interpretative zeal … strays from … the historical record to the point of being suspect".[8]

BibliographyEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Allan Eckert, who penned the story that became 'Tecumseh!', has died". Chillicothe Gazette. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved July 8, 2011. 
  2. ^ www.tecumsehdrama.com
  3. ^ "Newbery Awards". Retrieved 2012-05-15. 
  4. ^ "Blue Jacket puts $9 million yearly into Greene County economy, Helen Bebbington, The Dayton Daily News, June 12, 2003.
  5. ^ This production was documented in 1997 reprint edition of A Time of Terror: The Great Dayton Flood, Landfall Press, 1997.
  6. ^ Program of the XXIX American College Theatre Festival, January 2009, p. 60.
  7. ^ Publishers Weekly review (1992) of A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh.
  8. ^ a b c Review of A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh (1991), Kirkus Reviews

External linksEdit