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.