Author. Fox was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on April 9, 1926, and grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. After serving as a flight officer aboard B-29s in World War II, Fox returned to Columbia to attend the University of South Carolina, graduating in 1950 with a degree in history. He went to New York City, where he worked as a salesman. During his New York years he attended Caroline Gordon’s creative writing classes at the New School, and she encouraged him to shape his short stories for publication.
Fox’s first book of short stories, Southern Fried (1962), and its continuance, Southern Fried Plus Six (1968), are set in Columbia and its environs, where most of Fox’s later fiction works are set. Columbia in Fox’s writing is the place of moonshine stills, barbecue, drive-ins, baseball games, razor fights, torrid summers, and populist politics. In Fox’s work, Columbia is a diverse southern city populated by eccentrics, hustlers, and natural comedians, with a peppering of bullies and petty criminals. Their stories are told with high good humor and liberal doses of biting satire. Fox’s first two books of short stories are remarkably popular, having sold more than one million copies.
Fox’s novels Moonshine Light, Moonshine Bright (1967), Ruby Red (1971), Dixiana Moon (1981), and Wild Blue Yonder (2002) give full range to his talents for character development, depiction of southern humor, and stinging satirical portraits of the flawed among us, notably hypocritical preachers and unctuous con men and politicians.
In addition to writing fiction, Fox is also a journalist of national reputation. He has published articles in Sports Illustrated, Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s, Holiday, and Golf Digest, among others. In the late 1960s he wrote screenplays in Hollywood and New York. His screenplay credits include Southern Fried (1967), Off We Go (1968), and Cold Turkey (1970). In 1969 he wrote a television screenplay, “Fast Nerves,” based on his first published short story, for American Playhouse, WNET-TV, New York City.
Fox’s writing, both fiction and nonfiction, is characterized by his pervasive conviction that humor is a saving attitude and that traditional southern storytelling is a high art form. Fox’s humor writing is also characterized by his uncommon talent for hearing and repeating the southern vernacular language, which carries heavy weight in all of his writing.
Fox’s university teaching career started at the University of Iowa, where he taught creative writing at the graduate level for four years (1968–1972). Then he taught article writing at the University of Iowa School of Journalism from 1974 to 1976. In 1976 he joined the faculty of the English department at the University of South Carolina as writer-in-residence. Fox was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 2010.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., et al., eds. Conversations with Writers. 2 vols. Detroit.: Gale, 1977–1978.
Johnston, Carol. “William Price Fox.” In Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 2, American Novelists since World War II. Edited by Jeffery Helterman and Richard Layman. Detroit: Gale, 1978.