Biography of Mackinlay Kantor
MacKinlay Kantor (February 4, 1904 – October 11, 1977), born Benjamin McKinlay Kantor, was an American journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He wrote more than 30 novels, several set during the American Civil War, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1956 for his 1955 novel Andersonville, about the Confederate prisoner of war camp. (The novel is often erroneously believed to have been the basis for the stage play and TV movie The Andersonville Trial (1970), as well as for the TV mini-series Andersonville (film) (1995), but neither has any actual connection to Kantor's work.)
Benjamin McKinlay Kantor was born and grew up in Webster City, Iowa, the second child and only son in his family. He had a sister Virginia. His mother, Effie (McKinlay) Kantor, worked as the editor of the Webster City Daily News during part of his childhood. His father, John Martin Kantor, was a Jewish, native-born Swede descended from "a long line of rabbis, who posed as a Protestant clergyman." His mother was of English, Irish, Scottish, and Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry. (Later MacKinlay Kantor wrote an unpublished novel called Half Jew.) Kantor's father had trouble keeping jobs and abandoned the family before Benjamin was born. His mother returned to live with her children at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Adam McKinlay, in the same city.
As a child, the boy started using his middle name McKinlay as his given name. He changed its spelling, adding an "a" because he thought it sounded more Scottish, and chose to be called "Mack" or MacKinlay. He attended the local schools and made full use of the Kendall Young Library, which he described as his "university". Mack Kantor won a writing contest with his first story "Purple".