UPDATE (Oct. 30/08): Apparently he died yesterday. I’m saddened by the news. See William Wharton, 1925-2008.
William Wharton is the author of Birdy, Dad, A Midnight Clear, and many other excellent books. He has written non-fiction, too, including Ever After: A Father’s True Story, a heart-wrenching account of how his daughter’s family got killed in a car crash caused by smoke from nearby fires in Oregon.
I was introduced to William Wharton’s books through Peter Gabriel, who did the soundtrack for the under-rated movie Birdy. The movie is based on Wharton’s book of the same name. It’s about a guy who thinks he’s a bird after a traumatic incident during World War II (although the movie uses the Vietnam War, of course). It’s one of Nicholas Cage’s and Matthew Modine’s earliest and best movies.
Franky Furbo is a novel about a soldier who’s rescued by a fox with fantastical powers. The author suggests that the tale is one he told to his kids; it’ll make you want to tell it to your own kids – it’s magical.
Wharton’s last book was Houseboat on the Seine. It’s a non-fictional account for how he bought a houseboat in Paris. I remember laughing out-loud at parts.
He hasn’t published anything that I know of since 1994. He has no “official” website; a lot of references to him online are inaccurate, and no full biography exists. You can learn a lot from him through his books, but he’s chosen to remain anonymous.
He also paints, as he describes in his novel Last Lovers (which I recently read and enjoyed a lot).
He’s one of the few authors that I’ll read anything he writes.