Bestselling thriller writer Ken Follett is born on this day in Wales to a devout Christian family that does not allow young Ken to watch TV, see movies, or listen to the radio.
As a result of his strict media diet during childhood, Follett became a voracious reader. After college, he became a reporter for the newspaper in Cardiff, Wales, his hometown, and later reported for a paper in London. Deciding he wasn't a very good reporter, he tried his hand at novels after a friend received a 200-pound advance (less than $400) for a thriller. Coincidentally, Follett needed about 200 pounds to fix his broken car, so he wrote a thriller, which was picked up by Everest Publishers.
Although his advance was large enough to fix his car, the book flopped, and Follett went to work for Everest. He wrote 10 novels during the next four years, finally breaking through with The Eye of the Needle. He wrote many more bestselling spy thrillers, then branched out with historical fiction such as Pillars of the Earth, about cathedral builders in medieval Europe, and On Wings of Eagles, a nonfiction account of Ross Perot's mission to rescue employees trapped in Iran. Bestselling works in recent years include the historical novels World Without End (2007) and Fall of Giants (2010).