Thomas Keneally, a world-renowned novelist best known for his novel "Schindler’s List," is the winner of the 2007 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. During his prestigious career of more than four decades, Keneally has written about 30 novels, more than a dozen nonfiction works, plus several plays and screenplays. Keneally’s works are characterized by their sensitivity to style, objectivity, suspense and diversity. Many of his novels are reworkings of historical material, although modern in their psychology and style.
Born in Sydney, Australia, in 1935, Keneally completed his schooling at various schools on the New South Wales north coast before commencing theological studies for the Catholic priesthood. He abandoned this vocation in 1960 and turned to clerical work and school teaching before publication of his first novel, "The Place at Whitton," in 1964. Since that time he has been a full-time writer with the odd stint as lecturer (1969-70) and writer in residence.
One of the most successful modern Australian authors, Keneally was short-listed for the Booker Prize for fiction on four occasions: in 1972 for "The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith," in 1975 for "Gossip From the Forest," and in 1979 for "Confederates," before winning the prize in 1982 with "Schindler’s Ark" (aka "Schindler’s List"), which served as the basis for Steven Spielberg’s award-winning motion picture in 1993.
With the publication of "Schindler’s Ark," Keneally found himself embroiled in a controversy over whether his book was fiction or nonfiction. Although the story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist during World War II who saved the Jews assigned to work in his factory, is historical truth, Keneally wrote the book as a novel. "The craft of a novelist," Keneally said in the London Times, "is the only craft to which I can lay claim, and … the novel’s techniques seem suited for a character of such ambiguity and magnitude as Oskar (Schindler)." After deliberation, the judges deemed the work a novel and awarded it the Booker Prize.
Other novels by Keneally include "The Fear," "Bring Larks and Heroes," "Three Cheers for the Paraclete," "The Survivor," "A Dutiful Daughter," "Blood Red, Sister Rose," "Season in Purgatory," "A Victim of the Aurora," "Passenger," "The Cut-Rate Kingdom," "Bullie’s House," "A Family Madness," "The Playmaker," "To Asmara: A Novel of Africa," "By the Line," "Flying Hero Class," "Woman of the Inner Sea," "Jacko the Great Intruder," "A River Town," "Bettany’s Book," "The Office of Innocence," "The Tyrant’s Novel," and his latest novel "The Widow and Her Hero," released in March 2007. He also is the author of a children’s novel, "Ned Kelly and the City of the Bees." Using the pseudonym of William Coyle, he wrote "Act of Grace" and "Chief of Staff."
His nonfiction titles include "Moses the Lawgiver," "Outback," "Memoirs From a Young Republic," "Homebush Boy: A Memoir," "American Scoundrel: Love, War and Politics in Civil War America," "Abraham Lincoln" and "The Commonwealth of Thieves: The Story of the Founding of Australia."
Keneally was awarded the Order of Australia in 1983 for his services to Australian literature.