W. L. Heath was born in Lake Village, Ark. After the death of his mother, Heath was raised in Scottsboro, Ala., by relatives. He attended the Baylor Military Academy in Chattanooga, Tenn., before entering the University of Virginia to study English literature. Heath interrupted his education during World War II to serve as a combat pilot in the US Army Air Corps. In 1945, he returned to the University. Heath began publishing his short stories in national magazines such as Collier’s while he was still at Virginia. After he graduated in 1949, Heath began working for the Chattanooga Times. His first book, Violent Saturday, was published in 1955. A motion picture version was released the same year. Heath published several novels in the 1950s, and his last novel for adults was published in 1971. In the 1970s, Heath also wrote several books for children. His last book, The Earthquake Man, was published in 1980. Heath retired in 1988 and moved to Guntersville, Ala., where he was living at the time of his death.
W. L. Heath’s adult novels are examples of “Southern noir” (works that feature ordinary people with dark secrets who get caught in violent situations). All are set in a small Alabama town modeled on Scottsboro. His books for children are also set in the South.
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Last updated on May 30, 2008.