Authors Who Got Their “Big Breaks” After 50

Watership Down by Richard AdamsRichard Adams

On Christmas Eve, Richard Adams, author of the beloved fantasy classic Watership Down, passed away at 96.  After telling stories about rabbits to his young daughters on long car rides, Watership Down began life when the girls insisted he write the rabbit stories down. It was rejected by several publishers before it was finally published by Rex Collings in 1972. Richard Adams was 52 at the time his debut novel was published.


It turns out it is not that uncommon for an author to have their “first break” in publishing after they have lived the first half-century of their lives. Here are a few of the other authors in the library catalog who have that distinction:

Laura Ingalls Wilder

A former school teacher, Laura Ingalls Wilder started her writing career at age 44 as an editor and columnist for The Missouri Ruralist, but did not publish her first book, Little House in the Big Woods, until she was 65. The rest of the Little House series followed.



Raymond Chandler

Considered one of the founders of the hard-boiled detective genre, Raymond Chandler published his first novel, The Big Sleep, when he was 51.


Anna Sewell

Anna Sewell’s only book, Black Beauty, was published when she was 57. She died only five months afterward.



Frank McCourt

The author’s Pulitzer Prize winning memoir Angela’s Ashes was published when he was 65.




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