The American author of such acclaimed novels as Lie Down in Darkness and The Confessions of Nat Turner, he is perhaps best known for his National Book Award-winning work, Sophie's Choice, which was made into an Academy Award-nominated film starring Meryl Streep.
Early in his career, he had an editing position with McGraw-Hill in New York City. He published his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, when he was twenty-six years old.
He suffered a deep depression in 1985. The experience inspired his 1990 memoir, Darkness Visible.
He grew up in Newport News, Virginia, and later lived in North Carolina, where he attended both Davidson College and Duke University. He married Rose Burgunder in 1953.
He wrote a fictionalized account of the life of Nat Turner.