Walter Tevis

By Anya Geiling    

Unacclaimed author Walter Tevis was a master writer of scientific and realistic fiction. Dying only at the age of 56, he created just some of the masterpieces out in our world today.

  Tevis was born on February 28, 1928, in San Francisco CA. From an early age, he was diagnosed with a rheumatic heart condition and had to be placed in the Stanford Children’s Convalescent Home for a year. While he stayed there, his family moved back to Kentucky; Walter traveled home to Kentucky at age 11 all alone on a train. 

Fast forward a couple of years, Tevis made friends with Toby Kavanaugh, a fellow high school student. He learned to shoot pool in the Kavanaugh mansion in Lawrenceburg. There was a library there, which is where he read science fiction for the first time. Kavanaugh and Tevis remained lifelong friends, and later Kavanaugh became the owner of a pool room in Lexington. This event would then have an impact on Tevis’ writing.

Tevis’ most popular books consisted of: The Hustler (1959), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1963), Mockingbird (1980), Far From Home (1981), The Queen’s Gambit (1983), and The Color of Money (1984). Four of his novels were converted to movies or mini-series. The Hustler was made into a movie in 1961 which earned many awards, and The Color of Money was transformed during 1986. One cult-classic, The Man Who Fell to Earth, was created in 1976. It featured David Bowie as Thomas Newton, the main character. He was an alien who came to Earth searching for water to save his home planet. 

Just recently, on October 23, 2020, the drama miniseries: The Queen’s Gambit, was released on Netflix. This was long after Tevis died (1984), so people asked, why? Well, believe it or not, there has been a film adaptation being made for this book since 1983. The main director was going to be Heath Ledger! Harmon was set to be Ellen Page, and the story related to Heath’s personal life. The project was closed due to Ledger’s tragic death in 2008. 

After watching The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Queens Gambit, I was curious to find out who created these wonderful scripts. Usually, people would know the writer right away, but in this case, I had to dig deep because I had never heard of him before. I just wanted to bring attention to a great author; be sure to check his work out!