|William Styron's father, an engineer, came from an old Virginia slave-owning family; his mother was a Northerner who died of cancer when he was 12. Deeply troubled by his mother's painful death, Styron was sent to an Episcopal boarding school. He then enrolled in college but dropped out to join the Marines during World War II. He saw no action; however, part of his O.C.S. training was a writing course at Duke University, which set him on the path of literature. After the war, he studied at Duke, graduating in 1947 and moving to New York to work as an editor at McGraw-Hill. After a few months he quit, took another writing course, and began work on his first novel. LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS was published in 1951 and won the Prix de Rome in 1952. Styron returned to the Marines for the Korean War, an experience he used in his second novel THE LONG MARCH (1956). After the war, Styron joined the American expatriate set in Paris, becoming friends with George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen, and Donald Hall, among others, and participated in the founding of the Paris Review in the early 1950s. He also traveled to the Riviera and to Italy, where he met and married Rose Burgunder, an American poet. They returned to the U.S. and settled in Connecticut, where Styron has lived much of his life since then. With the publication of his Pulitzer Prize-winning THE CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER in 1967 and SOPHIE'S CHOICE in 1979 (which was made into a successful film in 1983), Styron became recognized as a major voice in American fiction, an author willing to grapple with terrible moral dilemmas from both a historical and individual perspective. One of Styron's most famous quotes was that "Human beings are a hair's breadth away from catastrophe at all times." In 1990 Styron turned to the memoir form, and in DARKNESS VISIBLE, he exposed his long struggle with depression, debilitating writer's block, and suicidal thoughts. However he overcame his depression, and died a natural death in Martha's Vineyard in 2006.