The American author of eleven novels set in or around the Southern Appalachian region, he is known for works such as Move Over Mountain (1957) and The Land Breakers (1964). Two of his novels, The Journey of August King and The Winter People, were made into films.
He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he wrote plays for the American Adventure Radio Series.
In addition to novels, he wrote six non-fiction books about American history and fine dining.
He married actress Jennifer Ehle.
He was a special adviser on Domestic Affairs for President Lyndon B. Johnson.