The writer John O’Hara (1905-1970) came from Pottsville in Pennsylvania. He put his home town and the surrounding vicinity under a microscope to produce an account of ‘The Anthracite Region’ that rivals Edith Wharton’s descriptions of New York and Sinclair Lewis’s anatomy of Sauk Centre. With the discerning eye of a local resident, O’Hara recreated this coal-rich region and its people so well that his novelettes, novellas, novels, plays and short stories give a true record of his ‘Pennsylvania Protectorate’ in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.
In order to reveal the ethnographical, geographical and historical authenticity of the O’Hara Canon, this book examines his writings in the context of Pottsville and the borough of Tamaqua, as well as the nearby towns and villages. The author also investigates both O’Hara’s genteel upbringing and his gangster stratum. The book explores the many dimensions of O’Hara’s life from the time of his birth until his escape to New York City in 1928. New sources such as unpublished letters and interviews with O’Hara’s family, friends and enemies provide important insights into O’Hara, as well as into Pottsville and the surrounding region.
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2009. 304 pp.
Contents: O’Hara in the Spawning Grounds of Pennsylvania – O’Hara’s Genteel Upper Class in ‘The Anthracite Region’ – O’Hara’s
Gangster Stratum in ‘Lantenengo County’ – O’Hara: The Gentleman, Ethnographer, Geographer and Social Historian – Aftermath.