John Ashworth

Selected Works

Fiction
Historical novel set in 1890s Florida, when Northern big business collides with old plantations. FL Historical Society Press, Chapin House Books, 2008
Young adult science fiction novel about social and political uses of science
Short Stories
A youth's dangerous effort to escape a banal working class life - O. Henry Prize Stories of 1949; Film by Universal Studios
Expatriate childless couple celebrating personal rebirth in Florence - Raritan, Fall 1995
An immigrant mother's efforts to help her daughter escape an abusive relationship
The shy love between a father and daughter
Plays
A journey with characters from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Contains opportunities for music and dance.
The visions and imagination of the English poet, William Blake, as he struggles against inhumanity, war, and is tried for sedition.
Magazine Article
The Atlantic, May 1949. Much anthologized including: Literature, Reading Fiction, Poetry and Drama, by R. DiYanni, pub. McGraw-Hill, 2000, 2004

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Biography

John Ashworth, novelist, journalist and playwright, was educated at Harvard and taught writing at Columbia University for twenty years. Included among his works is the O. Henry prize short story, High Diver that was made into a film by Universal Studios. Eudora Welty commented on the “vitality in its grim symbolism and its bone-crushing action,” calling it “a firm piece of work, wasting not a word or a moment.”

As a journalist, he analyzed foreign news reports for the Office of War Information in World War II, and did a stint as foreign correspondent for the Hindustan Times. He wrote for the Boston Transcript and major national magazines such as Harper’s and the Atlantic Monthly. As a playwright, he wrote Canterbury, based on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and Burning Bright, a play about the sedition trial of the English poet, William Blake.

When he died in 1993, Ashworth had just completed Overhead the Sun, based on research done while living in Florida in the 1950s. Using a wire recorder, he had interviewed survivors of the infamous race riot and massacre at Rosewood in 1923, in which the African American town was wiped out. Years later, the survivors and descendants sued the state of Florida and won, in 1994, a small but historic settlement. The incident is an integral part of the novel, set in Florida in the 1890s when Northern big business collided with old plantations, the frontier, and a legacy of racial antagonisms.