Todhunter Ballard Biography
Although he lacks a complete bibliography of his film and TV credits (a full accounting would show more than 50 film and TV credits in various capacities), Willis Todhunter Ballard was a very successful author, writing over 100 novels and innumerable magazine stories during his lifetime. Admittedly undisciplined in his youth, the Cleveland-born Ballard initially wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and become an electrical engineer. This decision, like many made others made through his late 20s, didn't last long. He inherently disliked working for anyone and was quickly fired from every job he had. One early sign of things to come was he possessed a way with words from a young age, amazingly selling his first story at age 12. He gradually was drawn to Hollywood in the waning years of the 1920s, where he worked (again, briefly) for Warner Brothers as an uncredited staff writer.
From there he slid down the prestige scale to Columbia, at that time a name associated with Poverty Row, and worked on their sub-B product variously as a producer, writer &/or editor, often unbilled. Ballard's Hollywood career was going nowhere but had been marginally successful at writing, submitting western stories to the dime pulps sporadically since 1928. He decided to augment his meager Depression-era studio income with writing and set his sights on the premier pulp in the country, Black Mask. Published since 1920, the magazine's popularity soared after legendary editor Joe 'Cap' Shaw was hired in 1926. Ballard studied the action-mystery form by watching detective movies and by 1933, he was making a decent living in pulp fiction, having created a durable character named Bill Lennox, a Hollywood private dick, that would continue to grace Black Mask into the 1940s. Ballard always had a particular fondness for western stories and shortly after WW2 he opted to write exclusively in the genre. Ballard's stories appeared in upscale slicks like the Saturday Evening Post and Colliers. He wrote a remarkable 78 western novels, winning the Western Writers of America Spur Award in 1965. Retired to Florida in the 1970s, he died there at age 67 in 1980.