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Author Information: Horace McCoy

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Horace McCoy was born in Pegram, Tennessee to parents he described as “book-rich and money-poor.” At age sixteen he dropped out of school and worked as a car mechanic, traveling salesman and cab driver. In World War I he served with the Army Air Corp as a bombardier and aerial photographer. During one mission, the pilot was killed, and McCoy, wounded, took over the controls, shot down an enemy plane and made it back to base. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre for this exploit and later received another medal. From 1919 to 1930 he was the sports editor for the Dallas Journal. An ambitious social climber, he exploited his job and athletic prowess to run in in society circles, and two of his three wives came from wealthy families. In the late twenties he began to publish stories in Black Mask and other pulp magazines, many featuring Jerry Frost, a flying Texas Ranger. After gaining attention as a theater actor, a MGM talent scout lured McCoy to L.A. in 1931 with the offer of a screen test, but it didn’t translate into work. During the Depression, he became in his words, a “road bum.” He slept in discarded cars in junkyards and worked as a fruit-picker and strike picketer. He claimed he was also a bouncer for a marathon dance contest held on a Santa Monica pier, the setting of his most famous novel, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Finally he began to get work as an extra, but found it degrading and soon quit. In 1933 RKO hired him as a contract writer and he toiled at studios like Paramount, Warners and Republic for most of the rest of his life. He worked on almost one hundred scripts, mainly B pictures, though he also co-wrote “Gentleman Jim” (1942) and “The Lusty Men” (1952), and was an uncredited script assistant on “King Kong.” His first three novels didn’t have much critical or commercial success in the U.S., but he later became a cult figure in France when Jean-Paul Sartre and other existentialists embraced his work. McCoy, who had a history of cardiac problems, died in Beverly Hills of a heart attack.


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