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Earl Hamner Jr. Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Fifty Roads to Town (1953)Description / Buy at Amazon
Spencer's Mountain (1961)Description / Buy at Amazon
You Can't Get There from Here (1965)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Homecoming (1970)Description / Buy at Amazon
Lassie, a Christmas Story (1998)Description / Buy at Amazon
Murder in Tinseltown (With: Don Sipes) (2000)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Avocado Drive Zoo (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon
Goodnight, John Boy (2002)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Twilight Zone Scripts of Earl Hamner (2003)Description / Buy at Amazon
Generous Women: An Appreciation (2006)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary(2009)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Feast of Frights from The Horror Zine(2012)Description / Buy at Amazon
Shadow Masters(2013)Description / Buy at Amazon

Earl Hammer was an American novelist best known for his 1961 book Spencer’s Mountain, which was inspired by his childhood and was also the basis of the movie by the same name and a TV series, The Waltons. He was the creator, narrative voice, and executive producer of the long-running TV series, The Waltons.

Hamner was born in Virginia’s Blue Ridge foothills in 1923. From childhood, Hammer knew he wanted to be an author. Growing up during the Great Depression helped him capture his imagination and was also an excellent setting for his books and television series. After serving in the United States Army in the Second World War and later interning for a local radio station, Hamner would write for radio before transitioning to television, notably for The Today Show.

In 1961, as the TV was transitioning from live programming to film, Hamner relocated to Los Angeles, where he contributed scripts for the famous Twilight Zone. He also published an autobiographical book called Spencer’s Mountain, which received positive criticism from Harper Lee and was later adapted into a successful movie featuring Maureen O’Hara and Henry Fonda. Earl Hamner won the Christopher Award five times and a George Foster Peabody Award and Emmy Award in 1972 and 1973, respectively. Despite attaining worldwide recognition, Hamner would remain the same man he was before, never losing his love for the old stories, folkways, and traditions.

Spencer’s Mountain is the tale of a family living in rural Virginia, a family rich in core values but one that doesn’t have money to sustain their essential daily expenditures, as well as their efforts of the family to see their oldest child attend college during the 1930s Great Depression.

Even though the boy has the desires, drive, and abilities, the money for funding his college education is the key sticking point. The father, Clay Spencer, is set on to ensure that all his children have the best in life than he did, not only completing their high school education but also getting college and university education and becoming better people. Clay Spencer is bigger than life, his stories, sayings, habits, and curses fill the novel, but his son’s dreams imbue every quiet moment and form the foundation for the family’s future.
This is Earl Hamner’s second book based on his childhood stay in Schuyler, Virginia. He named this book after his paternal grandmother. It’s also important to note that this novel formed the basis for “The Waltons,” a book yet named after another family member, even though the adult themes in this book are sanitized for television. Clay Spencer is straightforward in the book about his trouble with organized religion. His eldest son gets a lesson about intimacy from his father as they watch a cow and a bull, and he soon has an undescribed intimate session with his girlfriend.

Unlike in the adaptation versions, Earl Hamner doesn’t spare any details in his book. The signs of capitalism’s heartlessness are clear throughout the story and so do appreciation and the love of honest and kind-hearted people in a world surrounded by nature. The main characters have their shortcomings, but this only contributes to their realism and charm. The story has a surprisingly unique grip to it, and even with the true sadness within it, there is some hope to the ending, something that very few people see coming.

Published in 1970, Earl Hamner’s book Homecoming was adapted for the big screen viewing in 1971, a movie that would later become the pilot for the long-running CBS television drama show, The Waltons. If you’ve never watched this popular film, it revolves around a long-ago Christmas eve when a family living in the times of the Great Depression as they await the return of the patriarch, who had traveled away to look for work in the big city. As time pass and with no sign of her husband returning home, the mother becomes so worried, and as a response, she sends her eldest son out in the middle of a storm to help search for his father.

There is much concern in the family that the man may have stopped for some quick whiskey or probably playing some game of cards at a local Negro church. On the other hand, the younger children are more concerned with the thoughts of Santa Claus and also worried about whether or not their barnyard animals are capable of speaking at midnight.

The same storyline flows alongside as the TV adaptation, although much more detailed than the adaptation.

On Spencer’s mountain on Christmas Eve 1933, Olivia Spencer and her eight “thoroughbred” children anxiously anticipate the return of their father. With Winter unleashing one of his finest havoc, life continues despite the challenges and tribulations of the Great Depression, as well as the fear that rattles each of them to their core, especially Olivia.

The Homecoming is a heartwarming tale about that Christmas Eve on Spencer Mountain that invites us into their daily lives; the chores, the childhood feud, and the festive preparations, including a terrifying encounter with a hostile buck who’s committed but fortunately fails to attack Clay-boy as he’s looking for the ideal Christmas tree, the search for the father Clay, and finally a miracle at midnight. What the family did not expect was the ensuing true miracle.

Originally written in 1970 by Earl Hamner, Jr., CBS saw its potential and produced and premiered the movie in 1971, not just with minor character name changes but also beginning a series that Americans would come to know and love as “The Waltons.” If you have never watched the film or read the book, this story is highly recommended doing so around the holidays. The film “The Homecoming” will warm your heart with compassion and the holiday spirit. If you enjoy reading books that are set during the Great Depression, one of the toughest economic times in American history, then you will absolutely enjoy reading Earl Hamner’s books, or alternatively, you can watch the TV adaptations.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Earl Hamner Jr.

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