SALISBURY — John Neufeld, 78, died on May 16, 2021, at his home in Salisbury (Connecticut). He is survived by his companion of 37 years, Winston Foote.
Mr. Neufeld was born in Chicago, Ill., Jan. 14, 1938, the son of Rhoda (Padway) and Leonard Neufeld.
He was educated at Phillips Exeter and Yale, and worked in publishing from 1962 until 1969, when his groundbreaking young adult novel, “Lisa, Bright and Dark” was published.
Between the time Mr. Neufeld graduated from Exeter and Yale, he came to Salisbury, he had written for radio, television and newspapers — and published 20 novels.
Moving from Los Angeles to Salisbury in 1998, John continued to write. His work has been published by Random House, Harper’s, Atheneum, Putnam, Norton, Fawcett, New American Library, Penguin and Dial — and in Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Swedish and
Malay, in addition to English.
His first book, “Edgar Allan,” was a New York Times Book Review Best Books of the Year and was called “a work of art” by the New York Times. A historical mystery novel for young readers called “Gaps in Stone Walls” was nominated for the
prestigious Edgar Award in 1997.
His work received American Library Association awards, was cited by Time magazine, included twice in Best Books of the year by the Sunday New York Times, and was cited for fine writing by the New England Press Association.
A recent work, called “April Fools,” was set in Salisbury.
Eventually moving to Salisbury, Mr. Neufeld quickly became an integral and important member of the community. He was a vestry member at St. John’s Church in Salisbury, and organized the church’s annual quality used menswear sale during the annual
In particular, he took an active and creative role in the Salisbury Rotary Club, where he created and implemented several highly successful programs.
Among these were the Rotary-sponsored breakfasts across the street from Town Hall in Salisbury during each presidential election; and the successful scholarship program for Northwest Corner residents who wanted to pursue a degree in nursing.
He was past president of the Salisbury Rotary Club and recipient of the Paul Harris Award, given to an outstanding Rotarian. He also served on the board of the Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service.
He shared his gift for writing prose with many residents of the Northwest Corner in his popular writing workshops.
He also had two podcasts on NPR Station WHDD for 11 years, called “Political Safari” and “Good News.”
And he taught courses at the Taconic Learning Center.
In addition to Mr. Foote, Mr. Neufeld is survived by his sister, Jane, of Manhattan...
What I posted in 2018:
From "Contemporary Authors":
"Author, television scriptwriter, and teacher. Worked in New York City for various publishing companies, 1962-69, including as an advertising copy writer for Harcourt, Brace, and World, as a publicist for Franklin Watts, George Braziller, McGraw-Hill,
and Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, and as an editor for Western Publishing Company; taught English in a Los Angeles, CA, private school."
"Lisa, Bright and Dark" was reprinted in 1999.
About that one:
"Lisa Shilling is 16, smart, attractive -- and she is losing her mind. Some days are light, and everything is normal; during her dark days, she hides deep within herself, and nothing can reach her. Her teachers ignore what is happening. Her parents deny
it. Lisa's friends are the only ones who are listening -- and they walk with her where adults fear to tread."
Another acclaimed novel of his is "Edgar Allan."
From "Contemporary Authors":
...Then in the late 1960s, while attending a publishing conference in California, Neufeld was handed an idea for a novel that he could not pass up. "An editor named Marjorie Thayer told me about this [white] family in California who had adopted a black
child and had to ultimately give him up because of community pressure," Neufeld recalled. "I thought, here is a story that is at once simple and profound." While interested in the story, Neufeld did not want to use newspaper accounts. "I wanted the story
to be my own. . . . I wanted to concentrate on the children in the family, the white children, and I wanted complete freedom to make them whatever I could," he wrote in his autobiographical essay. Thus was born Neufeld's first novel, Edgar Allan, a book
that deals with racial issues in an uncompromising manner. Not originally intended as a juvenile title, the book was soon seen as such by editors who wanted the author to expand on the topic. Neufeld, however, disagreed with their recommendations to
write a longer book. "I thought then, and do so now, that it is terrifically important for young people to be able to start and finish a book in a couple of sittings. That the book be small enough yet filled with enough ideas and emotion that they learn
they can read and enjoy the act of reading."
Neufeld's short-is-beautiful philosophy paid off, not only in sales, but in critical acclaim, as well...
...Freddy's Book was followed quickly by For All the Wrong Reasons, the story of a teenage girl who becomes pregnant and decides to have the baby. "This was the first of the written-to-order-books that I did," Neufeld said in his interview. "I agreed to
write a problem book about teen pregnancy, but I made sure the publishers knew how I would handle it. The girl would know how she got pregnant, she would enjoy sex, and there would be no falling off horses [and losing the baby] to save the day."...
Q: John, what would you tell a teen who was struggling?
A: Calm down. Slow down. Draw back. Get perspective if you can. Find who among our friends is trustworthy and perhaps a little smarter than you are, someone who is daring enough to suggest, advise, listen. This need not be restricted to your own age-
group. Find an adult whom you trust, listen, and don’t be defensive. And never turn down an offer or a solution until and unless you’ve had 24 hours to consider it. Learn to distinguish between genuine concern and caring from criticism.
Q: Can you please share with all of us something else that I should have asked you?
A: Only one thing. The realization that if you choose writing as a career, you’re entirely on your own. That, of course, is what I wanted, but isolation is not always good for the soul. Get out, look around, and experience life. Otherwise you’ll have
nothing or certainly very little about which to write.
Edgar Allan, S. G. Phillips (Chatham, NY), 1968.
("A white family adopts a small black child and then, because they are fearful of what will happen in their small town, make a terrible decision. 'This is not a novel about prejudice or race relations or brotherhood . It is about parents and children,
young people and older people, about love and failure, loss and discovery, coming to terms with ourselves and others. "Edgar Allan" . is a work of art.'-'The New York Times'."
Lisa, Bright and Dark, S. G. Phillips, 1969.
Touching, S. G. Phillips, 1970, published as Twink, New American Library (New York City), 1971.
("A sixteen-year-old boy explains how he adjusted to his 16-year-old stepsister, who was hopelessly handicapped but full of hope.")
Sleep, Two, Three, Four!, Harper (New York City), 1971.
("Six young people, who are pursued by Army helicopters, bloodhounds, and a president who seems to be everywhere, join an embryonic underground to fight totalitarianism in their country.")
For All the Wrong Reasons, Norton (New York City), 1973.
("Teenagers Tish Davies and Peter McSweeny choose to get married because she is pregnant and it's the right thing to do. But they find being married and living as adults is difficult and confusing.")
Freddy's Book, Random House (New York City), 1973.
("A 9-year-old boy searches for answers to his questions about sex.")
Sunday Father, New American Library, 1975.
("Tessa's father announces he is marrying someone other than her mother, but Tessa will not give up her father without a fight.")
A Small Civil War, Fawcett/Ballantine (New York City), 1982, revised edition, Atheneum (New York City), 1996.
("When thirteen-year-old Georgia joins a crusade to fight the proposed banning of "The Grapes of Wrath" from her school system, she is shocked when other members of her family do not share her passion for the cause." "A portrait of a small town where
some residents feel that "family values" and "decency" are threatened. The younger characters themselves aren't that compelling, but I like that the parents are on opposite sides of the issue while still respecting each other. It's still a relevant
discussion of censorship.")
Sharelle, New American Library, 1983.
("When fourteen-year-old Sharelle becomes pregnant by her future brother-in-law, her life is irrevocably changed by love and concern for her baby.")
Almost a Hero, Atheneum, 1995.
("When Ben is assigned to volunteer at a daycare facility for homeless families during spring break, he discovers that working with the kids at Sidewalk's End is rewarding. Then Ben witnesses what he thinks is physical abuse of Batista, one of the center'
s children, and is frustrated when the system doesn't react quicky with help. After another of the center's children dies, Ben, haunted by his brother's mysterious death years before, enlists his friends in a desperate, and misguided attempt, to rescue
Gaps in Stone Walls, Atheneum, 1996.
("Four people are suspects in the 1880 murder of one of the wealthiest men on Martha's Vineyard. Twelve-year-old Merry, a girl with good reason to hate Ned Nickerson, is one of them. Set in an island community, this heart-stopping mystery tells the story
of Merry's rising terror and her desperate flight from the law.")
Boys Lie: a Novel, DK Ink, 1999.
("What can a girl do, being better endowed than of any her classmates? Gina knows that she'll be prey to boys who want her as a score. And in a New York City swimming pool, that's what she becomes. Fleeing from an assault and its aftermath, Gina and her
mother move to California. But the story of her rape surfaces there, despite everything Gina does to keep it quiet. She herself, in a flashback of terror, lets it escape publicly. Three boys in her new eighth-grade class -- Ben, Eddie, and Felix -- begin
dreaming aloud of making it with the stacked, experienced girl who must be, in their view, looking for more. What starts as a crude, three-man plan ends up as a single boy's attack, which Gina repels. He boasts of success -- boys lie -- so confident is
he that she, from shock or shame, will never tell anyone. But Gina realizes that unless she rises above her fears and tells the truth, her reputation will be in a boy's hands, not her own.")
The Handle and the Key, 2002.
("Dan is a shy, quiet foster child who has been moved from home to home for as long as he can remember, so when the Knox family decides to adopt him, Dan doesn't dare believe that this new, almost perfect home is permanent. Mary Kate is the Knoxes' only
daughter, a bright, outspoken girl who is determined to prove to her parents that they only need her, and the new baby that is on the way.")
FICTION FOR ADULTS
(Under pseudonym Joan Lea) Trading Up, Atheneum, 1975.
The Fun of It, Putnam (New York City), 1977.
Family Fortunes, Atheneum, 1988.
("Resigning his corporate chair, Jack Edgeworth divides his vast empire, expecting gratitude and respect, if not love, from his three daughters, but instead receives the shock of a lifetime.")
Lisa, Bright and Dark (teleplay; "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation), NBC-TV, 1973.
Death Sentence (teleplay), ABC-TV, 1974.
You Lie So Deep My Love (teleplay), ABC-TV, 1975.
April Fool, 2008
("April Fool is a sophisticated tale set in Cheever country (suburban Connecticut) - suspense, politics, romance, manners and murder, not to mention sex.")