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Novelist Henry William Hoffman (May 16, 1925-September 12, 2009) was born in Charleston. After his father left the family in the early 1930s, William and his only sibling, Janet, were raised primarily by a domineering but much loved grandmother. A staunch Presbyterian, Hoffman’s fiction was influenced by his religious upbringing and his education at Hampden-Sydney College.

His first novel, The Trumpet Unblown (1955), was based on Hoffman’s experiences as a medic in World War II. Two other novels, Days in the Yellow Leaf (1959) and Yancey’s War (1966), also gave dramatic testimony to the war’s effects. Christian themes of spiritual quest after disillusionment, reconciliation, and ultimate redemption are found in A Place For My Head (1962), The Dark Mountains (1969), A Walk to the River (1972), A Death of Dreams (1975), The Land That Drank the Rain (1982), and Godfires (1985).

Another influence, nature, appeared in Hoffman’s feel for the land and his lifelong love of horses, the hunt, and the allure of the sea. His short stories—collected in Virginia Reels (1978), By Land By Sea (1988), Follow Me Home (1994), and Doors (1999)—brought him an O. Henry Award and inclusion in Best American Short Stories. Hoffman’s later novels were Tidewater Blood (1998), Blood and Guile (2000), Wild Thorn (2002), and Lies (2005). He won the 1999 Dashiell Hammett Prize for Tidewater Blood.

In 1964 Hoffman moved to a farm at Charlotte Court House, Virginia.

This Article was written by William L. Frank and Henry W. Battle

Last Revised on July 17, 2023

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Frank, William L. and Henry W. Battle "William Hoffman." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 17 July 2023. Web. 22 July 2024.


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