John Edward Williams (August 29, 1922 - March 3, 1994) was an American author, editor and professor. He was best known for his novels Stoner and Augustus.
Williams was raised in northeast Texas. His grandparents were farmers; his stepfather was a janitor in a post office. Despite a talent for writing and acting, Williams flunked out of a local junior college after his first year. He worked with newspapers and radio stations in the Southwest for a year, then reluctantly joined the war effort by enlisting in the United States Army Air Forces early in 1942, spending two and a half years as a sergeant in India and Burma. During his enlistment, he wrote a draft of his first novel, which was published in 1948.
At the end of the war Williams moved to Denver, Colorado and enrolled in the University of Denver, receiving Bachelor of Arts (1949) and Master of Arts (1950) degrees. During his time at University of Denver his first two books were published, Nothing But the Night (1948), a novel depicting the terror and waywardness resulting from an early traumatic experience, and The Broken Landscape (1949), a collection of poetry. Upon completing his MA Williams enrolled at the University of Missouri, teaching and working on his Ph.D. in English Literature, which he obtained in 1954. In the fall of 1955 Williams returned to the University of Denver as Assistant Professor, becoming director of the creative writing program. His second novel, Butcher's Crossing, a depiction of 1870's Kansas frontier life, was published by Macmillan in 1960. He edited and wrote the introduction for the anthology English Renaissance Poetry in 1963. His second book of poems, The Necessary Lie (1965), was issued by Verb Publications. He was the founding editor of the University of Denver Quarterly (later Denver Quarterly), which was first issued in 1965. He remained as editor until 1970.
Williams' third novel, Stoner, the fictional tale of a University of Missouri English professor, was published by Viking Press in 1965. His fourth novel, Augustus, a rendering of the violent times of Augustus Caesar in Rome, was published by Viking Press in 1973 and co-won (with Chimera by John Barth) the National Book Award in 1973 and remains in print.
After retiring from the University of Denver in 1985, Williams moved with his wife Nancy to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he resided until he died of respiratory failure in 1994. A fifth novel, The Sleep of Reason, was unfinished at the time of his death.