Shirley Jackson: Biography

Shirley Jackson

14 dec 1916

Shirley Jackson was an American author, born in San Francisco, California in 1916. She was an incredibly popular author of mystery, crime and horror novels. Her writing has been a huge and important influence on a generation of authors, including Neil Gaiman, Nigel Kneale and Stephen King.

The Lottery, a short story, is regarded to be her most famous work. It was first published in The New Yorker and tells the story of a rural American village and the dark, sinister secret which it harbours. The New Yorker received more letters in response to this story than they ever had before. The Haunting of Hill House, a story published in 1959, is considered in literary circles to be one of the best ghost stories which has ever been published.

Shirley Jackson died suddenly and prematurely in 1965, aged just 48. She died in her sleep of sudden heart failure, which has been attributed to her heavy smoking and to the cocktail of drugs which had been prescribed to treat various mental health conditions.

Jackson has continued to be widely read and studied well after her death. Her 1962 novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, was adapted into a musical in 2010, more than 40 years after her death. There have been many critical studies of her work published, including a critical biography by Lenemaja Friedman, published in 1975. In 2007, the Shirley Jackson Awards were set up to recognize an author’s legacy in the fields of psychological suspense, dark fantasy and/or horror.