The Black Stallion’s Author: Walter Farley
ENTERTAINMENT | February 17, 2019
Walter Farley. Source: (junglekey.fr)
Walter Farley was born on June 26, 1915, in Syracuse, New York, the son of Walter Farley, an assistant hotel manager, and Isabel Vermilyea Farley. He always wanted to own horses but couldn’t because he lived in the city. Fortunately for him, his uncle, who was a professional horse trainer, decided to move his training stables from the West Coast to New York. The uncle taught him all about horses, including various racing styles as well as dressage and horse care. This knowledge would later be reflected in his writing.
He began writing his first book, The Black Stallion while attending Brooklyn’s Erasmus Hall High School. He continued to work on it throughout his studies despite being told by an editor that he couldn’t make a living writing children’s books. He completed the book while studying at Columbia and it was published in 1941 by Random House. He used his proceeds from the book to travel the world while being bombarded with fan mail from children who had fallen in love with The Black Stallion.
His writing was briefly interrupted during World War II when he served in the U.S. Army. After the war, he returned to his writing and The Black Stallion Returns was published in 1945. He would go on to write many sequels to the novel, with the 21st book in the series being co-written with his son, Steven Farley, and published shortly after his death. The Black Stallion series topped the New York Times list of best-selling children’s books in the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1945, Farley married Rosemary Lutz. The couple had four children - Pam, Alice, Steven, and Tim. The family lived on a farm in Earlville, Pennsylvania, but spent their winters at their second home in Florida. After finishing the third book in The Black Stallion series, which followed the adventures of a boy named Alec and the horse who rescued him from a shipwreck, Farley wrote a book called The Island Stallion, which featured a boy named Steve Duncan and a horse named Flame. This novel was equally successful, and the two series became interwoven with the Black Stallion and Flame eventually meeting.
In addition to his books about the black stallion and Flame, Farley also wrote about other horses, including a 1962 fictionalized biography of Man O’ War, grandsire of Seabiscuit and considered to be one of the greatest American thoroughbreds of all time. He also wrote a novel about a dog called The Great Dane, Thor. Farley wrote a total of thirty-four books throughout his lifetime.
Much of the authenticity of his books can be attributed to his interest in the horse racing scene. He spent a lot of time socializing with professional horsemen as well as riding dressage, which is the art of guiding horses through body signals often imperceptible to spectators. This art form plays a role in The Black Stallion’s Ghost, published in 1969.
In 1968, Farley’s twenty-year-old daughter, Pam, was killed in a car crash in Europe. She is thought to be the inspiration for his 1971 novel, The Black Stallion and the Girl.
In 1979, The Black Stallion was made into a movie, produced by Francis Ford Coppola. It received two Academy Award nominations. A sequel, The Black Stallion Returns, came out four years later. There was also a 1990s television series based on the books called, The Adventures of the Black Stallion.
In addition to writing children’s books, Farley was also active in children’s reading programs. He frequently made appearances at schools and libraries. In 1989, his hometown library in Venice, Florida established the Walter Farley Literary Landmark in its children’s wing.
Due to his writing success, the family owned many horses over the years. He died of heart failure at Sarasota Memorial Hospital on October 16, 1989, at the age of seventy-three. The Young Black Stallion, dedicated to Farley’s first grandchild, Miranda, was published shortly after his death.
Tags: Walter Farley, author, children's books, The Black Stallion, horses, writing, 1900s, the Black Stal
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