John Edward Williams brought up in Texas. His grandparents were farmers; his stepfather was a janitor in a post office. After flunking out of junior college and holding various positions with newspapers and radio stations in the Southwest, Williams enlisted in the USAAF early in 1942, spending two and a half years as a sergeant in India and Burma. Several years after the war, Williams enrolled in the University of Denver, where he received his B.A. in 1949 and an M.A. in 1950. During this period, his first novel, Nothing But the Night. In the fall of 1950, Williams went to the University of Missouri, where he taught and received a Ph.D. in 1954. In the fall of 1955, Williams took over the directorship of the creative writing program at the University of Denver, where he taught for more than 30 years. Williams's second novel, Butcher's Crossing, was published by Macmillan in 1960. In 1965 he became editor of University of Denver Quarterly (later Denver Quarterly) until 1970. In 1965, Williams's third novel, Stoner, was published by Viking Press. It has been recently been re-issued by The New York Review of Books. His fourth novel, Augustus, was published by Viking Press in 1973 and won the prestigious National Book Award in 1973 and remains in print.
After retiring from the University of Denver in 1986, Williams moved with his wife, Nancy, to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he resided until he died of respiratory failure on March 3, 1994. A fifth novel, The Sleep of Reason, was left unfinished at the time of his death
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