Leon Uris was a Jewish American novelist, best-known for his works of historical fiction including his bestsellers Exodus (1958) and Trinity (1976).
Leon Marcus Uris was born on August 3, 1924, in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Wolf William and Anna (née Blumberg) Uris. His father was a Polish-born immigrant and his mother was a first generation Russian American. Uris attended schools in Norfolk, Virginia, and Baltimore, but never graduated from high school and failed English three times.
In 1941, during Uris' senior year of high school, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served in the South Pacific as a radioman (in combat) at Guadalcanal, Tarawa and New Zealand from 1942 through 1945. While recuperating from malaria in San Francisco, he met Betty Beck, a Marine sergeant; they married in 1945.
Coming out of the service, Uris worked for a newspaper and wrote in his spare time. Drawing on his experiences in Guadalcanal and Tarawa he produced the best-selling Battle Cry (1953), a novel depicting the toughness and courage of U.S. Marines in the Pacific. He then went to Warner Brothers in Hollywood, helping to write the movie.
Uris' best-known novel, Exodus, was published in 1958 after two years of research and thousands of interviews. Exodus illustrated the history of Palestine from the late 19th century through the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. It was a worldwide best-seller, translated into a dozen languages, and was made into a feature film in 1960, starring Paul Newman, directed by Otto Preminger, as well as into a short-lived Broadway musical (12 previews, 19 performances) in 1971.
Uris was married three times: to Betty Beck, with whom he had three children, from 1945 through their divorce in 1968; Marjorie Edwards in 1969, who died a year later by suicide with a handgun. His third wife was Jill Peabody, with whom he had two children, they married in 1970, and divorced in 1989.
Uris died of renal failure at his Long Island home on Shelter Island on June 21, 2003.