On December 21, 1872, Terhune entered the world to parents Reverend Dr. Edward Terhune and his wife Mary in Newark, New Jersey. Mary penned best-selling romantic novels, a book on home economics, and cookbooks, using the pseudonym Marion Harland. It was she who influenced Terhune, encouraging in him a love of writing from a young age. The family moved from one church to another, following the Reverend's pastorates. Terhune grew up in Massachusetts and New York, and for a time, they lived in Europe.
After returning to the United States, Terhune later attended Columbia University, earning a bachelor of arts degree and becoming an excellent swordsman and boxer. Graduating, Terhune longed to travel more and spent time in Europe, Egypt, and Syria. He explored, found adventure, and was almost adopted into a Bedouin tribe. Experiences such as these often provide writers with an abundance of stories. Yet, Terhune took a job with the New York Evening World, disliking each moment of it. He longed for the freedom of a free lance author, so he penned stories and articles at night, submitting them to magazines. Over time he produced several novels, a couple plays, stories, and a travel book. However, he still couldn't quit his newspaper job for a literary career.
That all changed when he sent a story called "His Mate" to Redbook magazine. The response was tremendous as people enjoyed the tale of Terhune's two collie dogs. This success prompted him to write more collie adventures and soon Terhune had his literary freedom. For twenty years he published more than 30 additional books about dogs, penned more adult novels, wrote three screenplays, and authored two autobiographical works. A dog breeder as well as a journalist and writer, Terhune continued writing until near the end of his life. He passed away of a heart problem on February 18, 1942 at Sunnybank, his family summer home from childhood.
Though widely popular, some critics considered his writing stilted, and dog lovers found his descriptions of his most famous dog, Lad, a little too perfect. Terhune is now often criticized for his starkly racist depictions of the minorities, hill people and so-called "half-breeds" that peopled parts of northern New Jersey less idealized than Sunnybank.
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