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Harry Mark Petrakis

Born: June 5, 1923 in St. Louis, Missouri
Died: February 2, 2021 in Chesterton, Indiana

Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: When Petrakis was six months old, his family moved to Washington Park neighborhood in Chicago's South Side. He also lived in Woodlawn and South Shore.

Biography: Harry Mark Petrakis published his first story, 'Pericles on 31st Street' in the Atlantic Monthly in 1957. His most notable work, 'A Dream of Kings,' the tale of the larger-than-life Matsoukas who sacrifices everything, even his principles, in an effort to save his ailing son, was published in 1966. It was published in twelve foreign editions and was made into a motion picture in 1969 starring Anthony Quinn. In all, he wrote 24 books consisting of fiction, essays, and nonfiction.

  • """Days of Vengeance"""
  • -- Carl Sandburg Award, Friends of the Chicago Public Library, 1983
  • """Pericles on 31st Street"""
  • -- Finalist in Fiction, National Book Award, 1966
  • """A Dream of Kings"""
  • -- New York Times Bestseller, 1966
  • -- Finalist in Fiction, National Book Award, 1967
  • """Other Awards and Honors"""
  • -- Atlantic First Award, 1957
  • -- Benjamin Franklin Citation, 1957
  • -- Friends of American Writers Award, 1964
  • -- Friends of Literature Award, 1964
  • -- Society of Midland Authors Award, 1964
  • -- O. Henry Award - for his short story The Prison, available in the anthology Prize Stories, 1966
  • -- Writer-in-Residence, Chicago Public Library, 1976-1977
  • -- Writer-in-Residence, Chicago Board of Education, 1978
  • -- Carl Sandburg Award, Chicago Public Library, 1983 - Lifetime achievement award given to a Chicago author
  • -- Gabby Award for Arts & Culture, 2009
  • -- Nikos Kazantzakis Award for the Arts, Pancretan Association, 2013
  • -- Fuller Award for Lifetime Achievement, Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2014
  • -- Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, American College of Greece
  • -- Honorary Doctorate, Hellenic College
  • -- Honorary Doctorate, University of Illinois
  • -- Honorary Doctorate, Indiana University Northwest
  • -- Honorary Doctorate, Roosevelt University
  • -- Honorary Doctorate, Governors State University

Primary Literary Genre(s): Fiction; Non-Fiction

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

A dream of kings :
ISBN: 9781611175356 OCLC: 893455768

At the heart of A Dream of Kings is Leonidas Matsoukas, operator of the Pindar Counseling Service (Solutions provided for all problems of life and love), proponent of wildly creative get-rich-quick schemes, passionately loving husband and father, equally ardent lover of the beautiful bakeshop proprietor Anthoula, incurable gambler, and incorrigible fighter. Matsoukas is a fiercely proud Greek immigrant with a zest for the temptations of his new home on Halsted Street in 1960s Chicago. He dreams of conquering the city but the tragic illness of his young son Stavros pits him against the larger opponent of fate. By turns comic and heartbreaking, A Dream of Kings combines the power of classical myth--a man raging against the gods--with the vitality, emotion, and joyous ebb and flow of our all-too-human lives. The gods have chosen you for eternal disaster, Matsoukas's friend Cicero tells him, but you take every act that has been prepared for your punishment and turn it into some kind of triumph. A Dream of Kings was first published in 1966. It was a New York Times best seller, translated into twelve languages, and made into a 1969 feature film starring Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas. This new edition includes a foreword from Dan Georgakas, retired director of the Greek American Studies Project at the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College-CUNY and editor of the Journal of Hellenic Diaspora--

A Petrakis reader /
ISBN: 0385134215 OCLC: 3631380

Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y. : 1978.

Cavafy's stone and other village tales /
ISBN: 0978967658 OCLC: 681498427

These linked stories, in which the inhabitants of the village of Fanaron in central Greece spin their tangles tales of love, hate, vengeance, and despair, create a microcosm of the world.

Collected stories
ISBN: 0595378439 OCLC: 255018959 Lincoln, Nev. 2006, ©1987

Days of vengeance :
ISBN: 0941702537 OCLC: 40423884

Lake View Press, Chicago : [1999]

Ghost of the sun :
ISBN: 0312043198 OCLC: 20824780

St. Martin's Press, New York : ©1990.

In the Land of Morning.
ISBN: 9780595446049 OCLC: 154755695

Gardners Books, 2007.

Journal of a novel /
ISBN: 1470130734 OCLC: 878079105

Legends of glory and other stories /
ISBN: 0809327589 OCLC: 70841622

Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale : ©2007.

Lion at My Heart

Nick the Greek
ISBN: 0385049099 OCLC: 5287299

Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y. : 1979.

Pericles on 31st street
ISBN: 9780616758137 OCLC: 1011734652

CNIB, Toronto : 2012.

A Greek American neighbouhood in New York City is the setting for 16 short stories. Humour, sentiment, and love are the basic themes. 1967.

Reflections :
ISBN: 0941702049 OCLC: 10354873

"In Reflections, a distinguished novelist reveals personal aspects of his life and work. The complex relationship between writing and living is clearly drawn, and we see at work here the process by which a writer turns his raw experiences into art"--Jacket.

Song of my life :
ISBN: 9781611175028 OCLC: 894227592

With the discipline of a surgeon performing a critical operation, acclaimed storyteller Harry Mark Petrakis strips away layers of his nine decades of life to expose the blood and bone of a human being in his third memoir and twenty-fifth book, Song of My Life. Petrakis is unsparing in exposing his own flaws, from a youthful gambling addiction, to the enormous lie of his military draft, to a midlife suicidal depression. Yet he is compassionate in depicting the foibles of others around him. Petrakis writes with love about his parents and five siblings, with nostalgia as he describes the Greek neighborhoods and cramped Chicago apartments of his childhood, and with deep affection for his wife and sons as he recalls with candor, comedy, and charity a writer's long, fully-lived life. Petrakis recounts the near-fatal childhood illness, which confined him to bed for two years and, through hours of reading during the day and night, nurtured his imagination and compulsion toward storytelling. A high school dropout, Petrakis also recalls his work journey in the steel mills, railroad depots, and shabby diners of the city. There is farce and comedy in the pages as he describes the intricate framework of lies that drove his courtship of Diana, who has been his wife of sixty-nine loving years. Petrakis shares his struggles for over a decade to write and publish and finally, poignantly describes the matchless instant when he holds his first published book in his hands. The chapters on his experiences in Hollywood where he had gone to write the screenplay of his best-selling novel A Dream of Kings are as revealing of the machinations and egos of moviemaking as any Oliver Stone documentary. Petrakis's individual story, as fraught with drama and revelation as the adventures of Odysseus, comes to an elegiac conclusion when, at the age of ninety, he ruminates on his life and its approaching end. With a profound and searing honesty, this self-exploration of a solitary writer's life helps us understand our own existences and the tapestry of lives connecting us together in our shared human journey.--

Stelmark: A Family Recollection

Tales of the heart :
ISBN: 1566632439 OCLC: 40269548

Ivan R. Dee, Chicago : 1999.

The Founder's Touch: The Life of Paul Galvin of Motorola

The hour of the bell /
ISBN: 0809328623 OCLC: 214286028

Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale : ©2008.

The odyssey of Kostas Volakis /
ISBN: 0595007600 OCLC: 48204748, Inc., Lincoln, NE : ©2000.

The orchards of Ithaca /
ISBN: 0809325780 OCLC: 56367399

Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale : ©2004.

"Friend and host to the pantheon of Chicago political and sports celebrities, from Ditka to Daley, Jordan to Kup, Orestes is a respected member of his Halsted Street neighborhood. Unbeknownst to his peers, he privately wars with the consequences of a near-fatal childhood illness and the insecurities foisted upon him by his late, brutal father. Orestes finds security and comfort in his twenty-three-year marriage to the loving Dessie, without knowing that she harbors stark secrets of her own. Oblivious to these unvoiced burdens of their parents are the Panos children: a son forced into a hasty wedlock when he impregnated a mafioso?s daughter, and a teenaged daughter who seeks salvation in designer fashions. Orestes must also endure the barbs of his shrewish mother-in-law, an avid Tom Selleck admirer who openly scorns her son-in-law for lacking the machismo of her screen idol"--Publisher description.

The shepherds of shadows /
ISBN: 0809328631 OCLC: 213408659

Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale : ©2008.

"Thirty-one years after Harry Mark Petrakis wrote the historical novel The Hour of the Bell - set in the first year of Greece's war of independence from the Turkish Empire - he now carries the narrative forward in his newest work, The Shepherds of Shadows. With this sequel, Petrakis captures the fury and ferocity of revolution in the country that formed the bedrock of Western culture." "Featuring many of the characters who appeared in the earlier book, The Shepherds of Shadows depicts the horrors of war in battle scenes that echo the visceral starkness of conflict found in Homer's Iliad. The novel also includes a vivid portrayal of Lord Byron, who, through his poetry, supported the cause of Greece's fight for independence, inspiring the world to provide aid and volunteers for the struggle. Byron himself traveled to Greece to join the war for liberation." "Woven through the tapestry of war are stories of the love of a young guerilla fighter for a Greek girl and her child, born of a brutal rape, as well as the love of the scribe, Xanthos, for a village woman widowed by the war. There are lyrical descriptions of a village wedding and of the rituals of a village funeral. And always there is the mystical, overpowering presence of the Greek landscape and its majestic past blending reality and myth."--Jacket.

Twilight of the ice /
ISBN: 0809325063 OCLC: 50604828

Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale : ©2003.

The newest novel from acclaimed storyteller Harry Mark Petrakis, Twilight of the Ice is a dramatic tale of revelation and redemption set against the backdrop of the 1950s Chicago rail yards. In a classic yarn expertly balancing the realistic with the mythic, Petrakis chronicles the life of Mike Zervakis, a Greek immigrant and the last in the line of the strong, skilled railroad car icemen, in a profession becoming obsolete with the advent of modern refrigeration. After fleeing from the despotic Turkish occupation of his homeland of Crete, and then escaping from boyhood servitude in his uncle s shabby Chicago lunchroom, Mike at last finds his calling in the craft of the ice at the Team Track, the desolate ice depot in the heart of industrial Chicago. Here, under the oppressive rule of brutal foreman Earl, and bolstered by the camaraderie of alcoholic former schoolteacher Rafer Martin, Mike carves out his fate. Mike s icing world is populated by a rough crew of old-timers and rookies, including the stoic Polish icemen Budny and Orchowski, the buoyant and reckless Noodles, the brooding war veteran Stamps, and Mike s young helper and surrogate son, Mendoza. This harsh world is also home to Mike s beloved, the prostitute Reba; Rafer s temptation incarnate, the fragile Leota; and the old iceman-turned-preacher, Israel, a man plagued with apocalyptic visions of a second ice age in which mankind s salvation would depend upon the chosen icemen. Beset by age and a failing body, Mike yearns to find his heir, someone to whom he can pass his skill and his devotion to the craft. After finding only cold indifference among the young summer workers, he finally is introduced to the powerful young giant, S.K., a born iceman. But when S.K. carelessly causes the death of an icing veteran, old hatreds surface and Mike s dream of a successor seems doomed. All that remains for the master iceman is a final savage struggle against his exacting taskmaster, Earl, and an even more relentless foe, the twilight of his own life.

Waves of Night and Other Stories