Lonnie Coleman was born and spent his early childhood in Bartow, Ga. When he was twelve, Coleman's family moved to Montgomery, Ala. Coleman decided to become a writer and attended the University of Alabama where he was a student of Hudson Strode. At the University, he joined the Blackfriars Dramatic Society and wrote several plays which were produced by the group. He also won two short story competitions sponsored by national magazines. After graduating with an AB in 1942, Coleman served for four years in the US Navy. His first novel, Escape the Thunder (written while he was a student), was published in 1944. When his naval service was over, Coleman spent several months in Guatemala working on his second novel (published in 1947). He then moved to Philadelphia and became an editor at the magazine Ladies' Home Journal. In 1951, Coleman moved to New York City and worked as an editor for Collier's until 1955.
In 1956, a short story from Coleman's collection Ship's Company was dramatized and broadcast as part of the Playwrights '56 television series. In 1958, a movie version of his play Next of Kin was released as Hot Spell. Another play Jolly's Progress (adapted from his novel Adam's Way) played briefly on Broadway in 1959. In 1961, Coleman returned to magazine editing, working first for Good Housekeeping, then for McCall's. Throughout his magazine career, Coleman had continued writing and publishing his novels, six in the 1950s and two in the 1960s. These were generally admired by book critics but did not sell well. In 1972, however, the paperback rights for his novel Beulah Land sold for $800,000. This financial success allowed Coleman to leave the magazine business to write full time. In the last ten years of his life, he published three Beulah Land novels and two other novels. A television version of the Beulah Land trilogy was broadcast in 1980. Coleman lived in Great Britain for several years, then returned to the United States. He was living in Savannah, Ga., when he died of cancer in 1982.
Lonnie Coleman's fiction explores issues of race and sexual orientation. Five of Coleman's novels have Alabama settings, and his novel Mark is largely autobiographical. The Beulah Land trilogy has been compared to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind.
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Last updated on Oct 07, 2009.