Harold Bell Wright was born in Rome, New York on May 4th 1872. Wright had little to say that was good about his alcoholic father and his early years as he dragged "his wife and children from place to place, existing from hand to mouth, sinking deeper and deeper, as the years passed, into the slough of wretched poverty." His mother though introduced him to the great stories of literature and to appreciate the beauty of nature.
When Wright was 11, his mother died and his father abandoned them. Life was now time spent living with various relatives or strangers. He found odd jobs but frequently slept rough. In his late teens he found regular employment painting both pictures and houses but then turned to the Church. After two years at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, Wright became a minister for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Pierce City, Missouri and then pastored in Pittsburg, Kansas; Forest Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri; Lebanon, Missouri; and Redlands, California.
In 1902, while at the Church in Pittsburg, Kansas, he wrote a melodramatic story, 'That Printer of Udell's', to be read to his congregation. His church however serialised and published it in The Christian Century, their official journal. Wright despaired at the version printed but his parishioners encouraged him to write more. He took their advice. His second novel 'The Shepherd of the Hills' (1907) sold a million copies and established him as a best-selling author.
In 1909, pastors across America were incensed by his novel 'The Calling of Dan Matthews', which told a similar story to Wright's of a young preacher who resigns from the ministry in order to retain his integrity. They saw it as an attack on the Church but he that the Church was not doing its job properly. The book quickly sold a million copies.
Wright now resigned as pastor and dedicated his life to full time literature. In 1911, he published 'The Winning of Barbara Worth', a historical novel set in the Imperial Valley of southeastern California. Another million-seller.
With his next novel 'The Eyes of the World', Wright had the best-selling book of 1914 and another million-seller. He was a literary phenomenon and although today largely ignored he is one of the best-selling writers of all time.
From 1914 to about 1933 Wright lived mostly in Tucson, Arizona and then from 1935 until his death in 1944, he lived on his 'Quiet Hills Farm' near Escondido, California.
Between 1902 and 1942 Wright wrote 19 books, several stage plays, and a number of magazine articles.
For Wright though health was a major issue and increasingly so. He had struggled for most of his life with lung disease.
Harold Bell Wright died of bronchial pneumonia on May 24th, 1944 in Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California.