Mort, John 1947-
Mort, John 1947-
PERSONAL: Born November 24, 1947, in Warsaw, Indiana; son of Louis Byron and Nora Mae Mort; became a citizen of the United States; married Sarah Louise, 1972 (divorced, 1984); married Patricia Eileen Hogan, February 14, 1994; children: Nathan. Education: University of Iowa, B.A., 1972, M.F.A., 1974, M.L.S., 1976.
ADDRESSES: Home—5695 NW State Route 92, Smithville, MO 64089-8898. Office—Allen Public Library, 300 N. Allen Dr., Allen, TX 75013.
CAREER: Librarian and writer. Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, librarian, 1982-86; St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL, librarian, 1987-88; Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, MO, librarian, 1988-92; freelance writer, beginning 1992; River Bluffs Regional Library, St. Joseph, MO, adult services specialist, 1997-2001; Maple Woods Community College Library, Kansas City, reference librarian, 2001-02; Allen Public Library, Allen, TX, reference librarian, 2004-. Military service: U.S. Army, 1968-70, attained rank of sergeant; served in Vietnam, 1969-70.
MEMBER: American Library Association, Texas Library Association, Science Fiction Writers of America, Western Writers of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Arts fellow, 1992; Bill Boyd Literary Novel Award, American Library Association, and Literary Award, Missouri Library Association, both 2000, both for Soldier in Paradise.
Tanks: Short Fiction, BKMK Press (Kansas City, MO), 1986.
Soldiers and Civilians: Americans at War and Home, Bantam (New York, NY), 1986.
The Walnut King and Other Stories, Woods Colt Press (Kansas City, MO), 1990.
The Perimeter of Light: Writings about the Vietnam War, New Rivers Press (Moorhead, MN), 1992.
Soldier in Paradise, Southern Methodist University Press (Dallas, TX), 1999.
Christian Fiction: A Guide to the Genre, Libraries Unlimited (Greenwood Village, CO), 2002.
Read the High Country: A Guide to Westerns, Libraries Unlimited (Greenwood Village, CO), 2005.
Contributor of articles to newspapers, magazines, and journals, including book reviews for Kirkus Reviews and Booklist; columnist for Booklist, c. 1992.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Goat Boy of the Ozarks, a novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Vietnam War veteran and longtime librarian John Mort began his writing career with a collection of short stories focusing on the Vietnam War titled Tanks: Short Fiction. He followed with The Walnut King and Other Stories, in which he writes about small-town America and people seeking a better life. In one story, for example, a young man craves personal freedom to such an extent that he realizes it could mean living life without love or closeness. Writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Charles Solomon called the stories "bleak" and wrote: "Like the virtuous pagans in Dante's Limbo, the people in Mort's stories long for a better existence, but know they will never receive it."
Mort's novel Soldier in Paradise focuses on the experiences soldiers faced on the battlefields of Vietnam and what they faced when they returned home from that largely unpopular war. The story's narrator is James Patrick "Irish" Donnelly, who leaves behind his failed life in the Missouri Ozarks and becomes attached to a group of Vietnam veterans in Florida. The group's members resent being treated like losers because the United States reportedly lost the war. One of the vets, a legless Puerto Rican, reminds Donnelly of a soldier, Norman Sims, who he knew in Vietnam. Sims, a devout Christian, initially underwent ridicule for shooting himself in the foot to escape the war but eventually won respect as a hero in battle. The relationship with the legless vet, who rolls his wheelchair into a swimming pool in a mock suicide attempt, changes Donnelly's life as it combines with memories of Sims' heroism and personal battles to spur Donnelly toward rebuilding his own life. The novel's chapters alternate between Donnelly's experiences in Vietnam and his life in the United States, both before and after the war.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Soldier in Paradise a "never exaggerated and always engaging first novel," and went on to praise the work as "Intelligent, sensitive, and unflaggingly honest: a novel deserving of its place among the chronicles not only of that war but of its era." In a review for the Dallas Morning News, Marc Leepson called Mort's novel "a literary rarity: a Vietnam War combat novel that aims high and succeeds." Library Journal contributor Edward B. St. John wrote that while the novel fails "to transcend the constraints of the genre," Soldier in Paradise serves as "a solid and affecting addition to the Vietnam canon." George Gurley commented in the Kansas City Star that Mort "has written powerfully and with dark humor about the meaninglessness and terror of war, the fighting man's degrading return to an ungrateful homeland and the quest for redemption." A Publishers Weekly contributor also praised the novel's focus, writing that "Mort's unsentimental narrative draws the reader deep into Irish's story with a consistent air of authenticity and frankness, eschewing the emotional manipulativeness and ax-grinding of flashier Hollywood versions."
Mort draws on his experience as the Christian fiction columnist for Booklist to write Christian Fiction: A Guide to the Genre. The book is a comprehensive reader's guide covering nearly 2,000 Christian classic and contemporary Christian titles and includes detailed annotations and bibliographies. The books are grouped in such categories as "Biblical Fiction," "Catholic Fiction," "Mysteries and Thrillers," and "Young Adults." Mort also includes icons to help librarians and others identify books that have, for example, won awards or are especially suitable for young adults. Writing in Library Journal, Shawna Saavedra noted that the author "offers a thorough explanation of the genre" and called Christian Fiction "the most comprehensive and up-to-date tool focusing on Christian fiction available." Mary Ellen Quinn wrote in Booklist that Mort "tackles the growing popularity and complexity of fiction that 'has something to do with Christian principles.'" Quinn went on to note that "novices to the genre will find the thoughtful explanations and annotations just as valuable, and few librarians will come away from this volume without learning something new."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2002, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Christian Fiction: A Guide to the Genre, p. 354.
Dallas Morning News, August 29, 1999, Marc Leepson, review of Soldier in Paradise, p. J8.
Kansas City Star, October 24, 1999, George Gurley, review of Soldier in Paradise, p. K5.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1999, review of Soldier in Paradise, pp. 1336-1337.
Library Journal, October 15, 1999, Edward B. St. John, review of Soldier in Paradise, p. 107; September 1, 2002, Shawna Saavedra, review of Christian Fiction, p. 223.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 23, 1990, Charles Solomon, review of The Walnut King and Other Stories, p. 14.
New York Times Book Review, October 24, 1999, David L. Ulin, review of Soldier in Paradise, p. 37.
Publishers Weekly, October 4, 1999, review of Soldier in Paradise, p. 65.