Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

John William Corrington (1932-1988)

John William Corrington was born in Ohio in 1932; his family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana when he was a young boy. He may have been born in Ohio, and spent some his boyhood years there, but it was Louisiana and, more particularly, Shreveport that Corrington adopted as his spiritual and literary home. It was growing up in Shreveport that he developed a great love for that city and for the South, a love which figures prominently in his life and his writing. Corrington stayed on in Shreveport during his college years to attend Centenary College, where he met a small group of teachers whom he revered and honored throughout his life.

Corrington received a B.A. degree from Centenary College in 1956 and his M.A. from Rice University in 1960, the year he took on his first teaching position in the English Department at LSU. While on leave from LSU, Corrington obtained his D.Phil. in 1965 from the University of Sussex (England) and then, in 1966, moved to Loyola University-New Orleans as Associate Professor of English, where he also served as chair of the English Department. Corrington’s early writing included poetry, novels, short stories, and academic writing that might best be labeled literary criticism. He would later write crime/detective fiction and screenplays in collaboration with his wife, Joyce Corrington.

At age forty, Corrington decided to study law. He obtained his J.D. from Tulane Law School in 1975. (Corrington’s father had studied law, but was in the insurance business, and never practiced.) After graduating from Tulane Law School, Corrington practiced law in New Orleans for three years and the influence of his legal training and law practice soon found a place in his fiction. Corrington’s legal fiction consists of only six short stories (a newly discovered story was published in 2002) and two novellas. The novellas, published under the title All My Trials by the University of Arkansas Press in 1987, appeared the year before his death.

Corrington gave up the practice of law after three years to pursue his TV, literary and intellectual history writing projects. He died in Malibu, California. Joyce Corrington, his wife, co-author and collaborator, survives him and continues to make her home in Malibu.

During the 1960s, Corrington taught English literature, wrote poetry, published academic papers, and wrote his first novels. His first poetry was published in 1957 and his first collection of poetry, Where We Are, appeared in 1962. Three more collections would follow: The Anatomy of Love and Other Poems (1964); Mr. Clean and Other Poems (1964); and Lines to the South and Other Poems (1965), all published while Corrington was teaching English at LSU, working on his doctorate, and getting his first novel underway. During his early years as a poet, Corrington discovered the poetry of Charles Bukowski, a poet whose work still receives attention. Corrington wrote several admiring essays about Bukowski’s poetry, was active in seeing Bukowski’s first major collection of poetry published, and carried on an extensive correspondence with the writer spanning the 1960s.

Corrington’s early promise as poet was displaced by his intense desire to write major fiction, and to develop his skills as a novelist. Corrington’s impressive first novel, And Wait for the Night, was published in 1964, and after he joined the faculty at Loyola-New Orleans, he published two additional novels, The Upper Hand (1967) and The Bombardiers (1970), as the decade ended.

In the late 60s, Corrington’s fiction came to the attention of film director/ producer Roger Corman. Corman approached Corrington about doing a screenplay about the German WW I pilot, Manfred von Richthofen (“The Red Baron”) and Corrington, never one to say no to a new writing venture, talked his wife, Joyce, a chemistry professor, into working on the script with him. Working together they wrote Von Richthofen and Brown (later released as The Red Baron) and delivered the finished script to Corman in 1969. The film was released by United Artists in 1971.

In addition to his 1960s novels, the new screenwriting venture with Joyce, and his four published collections of poetry, Corrington published his first collection of short stories, The Lonesome Traveler and Other Stories in 1968 and continued to write short fiction throughout his life. During his years as an English professor, Corrington also published a steady output of academic articles and essays (and wrote, but left un-published, a significant number of theoretical and philosophical writings).

The work with Roger Corman continued in the early 1970s, and the Corringtons—working together as they did on all of Corrington’s film script writing—followed up the film script for Von Richthofen and Brown (1971) with the following: The Omega Man (1970), Boxcar Bertha (1971), and The Arena (1972).

Corrington, who had never developed any great passion for teaching, growing increasingly disaffected with the situation at Loyola-New Orleans where he was battling with the Jesuits over tenure decisions in his English Department, decided to take up the study of law. It was, according to Corrington, his reading of the political philosopher Eric Voegelin that prompted his interest in the study of law.

Bill Corrington was not the typical first year law student. When he started Tulane Law School in 1972, he was forty years old, a well-published poet and novelist, a screenwriter, accomplished scholar, chair of an English department. Attending law school seems not to have left Corrington short of time and energy for his other writing pursuits. During his first year of law school, he and Joyce wrote the film script for The Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), and then, in his second year at Tulane, they finished work on The Killer Bees (1974).

Corrington graduated from Tulane Law School in 1975, joined a small New Orleans personal injury law firm, Plotkin & Bradley, and spent the next three years practicing law. He would never return to teaching, although he sometimes considered the possibility, thinking he might make his way back to Shreveport, or to settle somewhere in the South.

After taking up the study of law, Corrington began to make lawyers and judges (and the law) a part of his fiction. “The Actes and Monuments,” Corrington’s first lawyer story, was published in Sewanee Review in 1975, the year he finished law school. A second lawyer story, “Pleadings,” was published in 1976 in the Southern Review, appearing during Corrington’s first year as a practicing lawyer. A third story, “Every Act Whatever of Man,” followed in the Southern Review in 1978, this one in the final year of his law practice. Corrington continued, throughout the 1980s, until his death in 1988, to make the lives of lawyers and judges a part of his fiction.

Corrington gave up the practice of law in 1978, and working with Joyce, they became head writers for the TV daytime drama, Search for Tomorrow (CBS). From 1978 to 1988, the Corringtons wrote scripts for Search for Tomorrow (CBS) (1978-80) (477 episodes); Another World (1980) (NBC) (23 episodes); Texas, a series they created and wrote, 1980-82 (NBC) (147 episodes); General Hospital (1982) (ABC) (54 episodes); Capitol (1982-83) (CBS) (167 episodes); One Life to Live (1984) (ABC) (98 episodes); and finally, Superior Court, a syndicated series (1986-89) (238 episodes).

During the final decade of his life, the decade he worked as a writer of daytime TV dramas, Corrington published his last major novel, Shad Sentell (1984), a collection of short stories, The Southern Reporter (1981), and two magnificent novellas featuring lawyers, published as All My Trials (1987).

Corrington, always in search of a new venture as a writer, eventually turned to the detective genre. With a contract from Viking Press, Corrington, in partnership with Joyce, begin a series of books which featured a New Orleans police detective–Ralph “Rat” Trapp–a reporter named Wesley Colvin, and a love interest for Colvin, named Denise Lemoyne, who begins as an relatively insignificant character, but becomes Colvin’s lover and, finally, an Assistant District Attorney. The first of the Corringtons’ police detective/mystery novels, So Small a Carnival, appeared in 1986, with A Project Named Desire and A Civil Death following in 1987. The fourth and final book in the series, The White Zone, was published in 1990, after Bill Corrington’s death in 1988.

Selected Bibliography

The Southern Reporter: Stories (fiction), 1981
The Collected Stories of John William Corrington (fiction), 1990

Selected Links

John William Corrington’s page at IMDB:

Website about John William Corrington and Joyce H. Corrington:

The John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence at Centenary College of Louisiana: