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Who is/was the greatest American author?


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Who are the greatest writers America has produced?

Most lists produced today would probably include Mark Twain and Earnest Hemingway.

What about Earl Lyle Stanley Gardner? Edgar Rice Burroughs? Tom Clancy? Louis L’Amour? Clive Cussler? And no doubt numerous other recent and contemporary authors.

By what characteristics should an author be judged for possible inclusion? Number of books written? Number sold? In dollars? In count?

As a side note, Agatha Christie I believe is British. At one time, and maybe still, her books were third behind the Bible and Shakespeare  

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You can't leave Steinbeck of that list, and what about Faulkner?  Burroughs or Clancy, I don't think so.  Both are pretty one dimensional, though fun to read.  I like Stephen King's books, but he's a dick.  


In no particular order:










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A concur for:

Dashiell Hammett

Raymond Chandler

Mickey Spillane

Zane Grey

Louis L'Amour

Mark Twain

Ray Bradbury

Robert Heinlein

Stephen Crane


Hunter Thompson was primarily a satirist and though often entertaining, not of the caliber of the above.

H. G. Wells was English.

I cannot agree with those that include Frank Herbert.  I have read much of his work and am unimpressed to the point of boredom.

Ambrose is known for biographies; not the stuff of great literature.

I would include Robert B Parker, author of the Spenser detective series.  He redefined the American detective story in the last half of the 20th century.

Did any one mention Larry McMurty?

Best known for his Lonesome Dove series, his other works such as Thalia and Duane Moore series are eminently readable and danged good stories.



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Herman Melville.--"He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it."

Earnest Hemingway.--" But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favors, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought."

E.A. Poe.-"The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

Hawthorn.-"On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A."

Alex Haley-“The main thing you got to remember is that everything in the world is a hustle.”

William S. Burroughs-“You were not there for the beginning. You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative”

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4 minutes ago, Eric said:

If we are doing sci-fi writers as well, how about Poul Anderson, or James Blish, or Robert MaCammon. Or a couple of truly great sci-if writers: Michael Crichton and Harry Harrison.

I suggest that American science fiction writers invented the genre, especially during the Golden Age of John Campbell and Lester and Jody Lynn Del Rey.

One sci-fi writer I was a huge fan of was Jack Chalker.  Yes, his plots were often weird, but his characters were great and his plots and settings engrossing.

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8 minutes ago, MO Fugga said:

Timothy Zahn.

Screw y'all who will bash me for being a Star Wars fan, but I find his cerebral and strategic style to be first rate. The guy who created a gnarly supervillain, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

He wrote the COBRA series as well. I really enjoyed those books.

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Lots of good suggestions here. Based on my very limited experience, I don't think it's possible to narrow it down to one greatest American author. except maybe Thomas Jefferson. Maybe.

Oh, and Arthur C. Clarke was a limey (but of course, so was Jefferson when he wrote his best work...) ;) 

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