James Michener was a writer who managed to write large, sweeping, histories. From his wiki intro:
James Albert Michener (February 3, 1907 – October 16, 1997) was an American author of more than 40 titles, the majority of which were sweeping family sagas, covering the lives of many generations in particular geographic locales and incorporating historical facts into the stories. Michener was known for the meticulous research behind his work.
Michener’s major books include Tales of the South Pacific (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1948), Hawaii, The Drifters, Centennial, The Source, The Fires of Spring, Chesapeake, Caribbean, Caravans, Alaska, Texas, and Poland. His nonfiction works include the 1968 Iberia about his travels in Spain and Portugal, his 1992 memoir The World Is My Home, and Sports in America. Return to Paradise combines fictional short stories with Michener’s factual descriptions of the Pacific areas where they take place.
The first Michener book I recall reading was The Bridges at Toko-Ri which I know I read in high school. I read Hawaii after seeing the movie. It was fun for me when I wound up stationed in Hawaii while in the USAF to try to match the book with the actual “Big Five” (from wiki):
The Big Five was the name given to a group of what started as sugarcane processing corporations that wielded considerable political power in the Territory of Hawaiʻi during the early 20th century and leaned heavily towards the Hawaii Republican Party. The Big Five were Castle & Cooke, Alexander & Baldwin, C. Brewer & Co., American Factors (now Amfac) and Theo H. Davies & Co.. The extent of the power that the Big Five had was considered by some as equivalent to an oligarchy. Attorney General of Hawaii Edmund Pearson Dole, referring to the Big Five, said in 1903, “There is a government in this Territory which is centralized to an extent unknown in the United States, and probably almost as centralized as it was in France under Louis XIV.”
I know I have never read Michener’s first, Tales of the South Pacific though I had watched the movie South Pacific as a kid. This was another case where I was I think in my twenties before I realized the musical South Pacific had been based on the the earlier book.
I know I have not read all of Michener’s works but have enjoyed all that I have read. As the wiki intro says, he was known for his “…meticulous research…” and that research allows an introduction to an area’s history. Among his books I have read over the years are Centennial (Colorado), Chesapeake, Texas, Alaska, and Poland.
As is the norm with these diaries, I learned a few facts about Michener that I had not known before. For example, I had not been aware of the James A. Michener Art Museum.
Michener had a number of his books and stories adapted for movies and television. There were a couple of surprises in this. First, I was not aware he had created the TV show Adventures in Paradise. A bit more surprising (though it shouldn’t be now that I think about it), Michener’s IMDB shows that an old John Wayne/Lee Marvin comedy, Donovan’s Reef is at least partly based on Michener writing (though it shows him as uncredited).
Photo from Jim, the photographer licensed under Creative Commons