Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Shaara is born today in Jersey City, New Jersey. Shaara attended Rutgers and later did graduate work at Columbia and the University of Vermont before becoming a college professor at Florida State University. He also worked as a merchant seaman, paratrooper, and policeman.
Shaara wrote four novels before he died of a heart attack in 1988. His second novel, The Killer Angels, is considered by some readers and historians to be the best novel ever written about the Civil War. Rich in carefully researched historic detail, the book recreated the Battle of Gettysburg and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975.
Shortly after Shaara finished the book in 1972, he was nearly killed in an automobile accident. He suffered brain damage that left him in a coma for five weeks and interfered with his hearing and speech. Troubled by lingering dyslexia and disorientation, Shaara wrote no more bestsellers before his death in 1988. However, his children later found and published his last manuscript, For the Love of the Game, about an aging baseball pitcher who pitches one last perfect game. This was adapted into a 1999 film starring Kevin Costner.
Shaara's son Jeffrey went on to write several popular works of historical fiction, including Gods and Generals, a popular prequel to The Killer Angels.