Joanne Williamson

       JOANNE S. WILLIAMSON was born in 1926, in Arlington, Massachusetts. Though she had interests in both writing and music, and attended Barnard College and Diller Quaile School of Music, it was writing which became the primary focus for her car­eer after college. She was a feature writer for Con­necticut newspapers until 1965, when she moved to Kennebunkport, Maine and began to write historical fiction for young people.

       In each of Miss Williamson's novels, now totaling eight with God King, she explores unusual historical slants of well-known events. In her first book, Jacobins Daughter, she tells a true story of the French Revolution; in The Eagles Have Flown, she presents a picture of Julius Caesar's time and gives a sympa­thetic portrayal of Brutus. She has a remarkable knack for using her fictional characters and plot to make connections between real historical persons and events. In a time when history is often taught in bits and pieces these connections are a great help, not only to the younger reader, but to the older one as well. Her third book, Hittite Warrior, has been well received in its recent reprinting for just this facility in showing the inter-relatedness of the ancient Hittite, Hebrew, Canaanite and Greek peoples in the 12th century before Christ. In God King, written some years ago, but now published for the first time, similar fascinat­ing connections are made for a later period in Israel's history.

       Of God King, Miss Williamson says, "I first came across a king called Taharka (King of Ethiopia and Egypt) in the Bible's story of King Hezekiah and the saving of Jerusalem from the Assyrians. Never having heard of him, I was curious. I looked through the histories of Egypt and found what I could—very little! There were, however, old legends (including the rivalry with his brother), Assyrian annals and, best of all, anthropological studies of Africa south of Egypt. What I found gave a picture of a remarkable character, a Kushite (Sudanese) king of Egypt who stood against the Assyrians and halted their advance through the civilized world. The Assyrian annals contradicted this, but the physical evidence contra­dicts them. I found myself caught up in a fascinating might-have-been story and decided to tell it."

       Before God King (and the reprinting of Hittite Warrior), Joanne Williamson's last book to be pub­lished had been To Dream Upon a Crown in 1967. The issue of this retelling of Shakespeare's Henry VI trilogy coincided with the unfortunate decline in America of interest in intelligent historical fiction for young people. At that time, she returned to her second calling and taught music until her retirement in 1990. Now interest has been rekindled in her books and in those of other writers of historical fiction. This renewal should be a great source of sat­isfaction to the many readers, young and old, who are discovering again the fasci­nation of man's story throughout the ages.

      Joanne Williamson died July 5, 2002.