Authors: Paul Zindel

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American playwright and novelist

Author Works


Dimensions of Peacocks, pr. 1959

Euthanasia and the Endless Hearts, pr. 1960

A Dream of Swallows, pr. 1964

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, pr. 1965

And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, pr. 1967

The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild, pr. 1972

The Ladies Should Be in Bed, pb. 1973

Ladies at the Alamo, pr. 1975

A Destiny with Half Moon Street, pr. 1983

Amulets Against the Dragon Forces, pr., pb. 1989

Every Seventeen Minutes the Crowd Goes Crazy!, pr. 1995

Long Fiction:

When a Darkness Falls, 1984


Up the Sandbox, 1972

Mame, 1974

Runaway Train, 1983

Maria’s Lovers, 1984


Let Me Hear You Whisper, 1966

Alice in Wonderland, 1985 (adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, 1989 (adaptation of Mark Twain’s novel)

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

The Pigman, 1968

My Darling, My Hamburger, 1969

I Never Loved Your Mind, 1970

I Love My Mother, 1975

Pardon Me, You’re Stepping on My Eyeball!, 1976

Confessions of a Teenage Baboon, 1977

The Undertaker’s Gone Bananas, 1978

A Star for the Latecomer, 1980 (with Bonnie Zindel)

The Pigman’s Legacy, 1980

The Girl Who Wanted a Boy, 1981

To Take a Dare, 1982 (with Crescent Dragonwagon)

Harry and Hortense at Hormone High, 1984

The Amazing and Death-Defying Diary of Eugene Dingman, 1987

A Begonia for Miss Applebaum, 1989

The Pigman and Me, 1992 (autobiography)

Attack of the Killer Fishsticks, 1993

David and Della, 1993

Fifth Grade Safari, 1993

Fright Party, 1993

Loch, 1994

The One Hundred Percent Laugh Riot, 1994

The Doom Stone, 1995

Raptor, 1998

Reef of Death, 1998

Rats, 1999

The Gadget, 2001

Night of the Bat, 2001


Paul Zindel (zihn-DEHL), a prizewinning young adult author and playwright, is known for his realistic, if sometimes bizarre, presentation of issues and situations appealing to contemporary adolescent readers. According to Zindel, these stories were based on his personal experiences as a teenager and a high school teacher. As a child, Zindel never really knew his father, but his hardworking mother juggled a variety of jobs in order to provide for Zindel and his older sister. Although the family moved frequently, Zindel found that each neighborhood offered a new background for his imaginative pursuits.{$I[A]Zindel, Paul}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Zindel, Paul}{$I[tim]1936;Zindel, Paul}

While still in high school, Zindel contracted tuberculosis and spent a year and a half in a sanatorium, the only teenager in a sterile world filled with adults. This experience, in addition to his exposure to the private nursing patients cared for by Zindel’s mother, shaped the development of fictional medical incidents that occur in some of his works. From this isolated and lonely time, Zindel developed the voice of an alienated narrator which even reluctant readers have found appealing.

While his major at Wagner College was chemistry (in which he was awarded a B.S. in 1958 and an M.S. in 1959), Zindel also took classes in creative writing; playwright Edward Albee was one of his instructors. After a brief period serving as a technical writer for a chemical company, Zindel spent ten years working as a high school chemistry teacher, writing fiction in his spare time. Wagner College later awarded him an honorary doctorate for his achievements in literature.

Zindel’s literary success began with the production of his play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, the story of a tormented family of outcasts. After its initial run in Houston in 1965, the play opened Off-Broadway in 1970 and on Broadway in 1971, winning numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in drama that same year. The play caught the attention of editor Charlotte Zolotow, who encouraged Zindel to write for teenagers. The Pigman, his first young adult novel, earned immediate critical and popular acclaim. The story, which features two alienated teenagers who exploit an elderly man, was named by the American Library Association as one of the Best Books for Young Adults in 1975.

The next year, Zindel published My Darling, My Hamburger, an honest and realistic look at the sensitive personal issues faced by members of his adolescent audience; it was subsequently selected as an Outstanding Children’s Book of the Year (1969) by The New York Times. The books that followed established Zindel’s appeal for the disaffected underdog, each of which was listed as The New York Times Outstanding Children’s Book of the Year in the year of their publication: I Never Loved Your Mind; Pardon Me, You’re Stepping on My Eyeball!; The Undertaker’s Gone Bananas; and The Pigman’s Legacy.

Zindel’s other awards of note included the selection of several of his works as the Best Young Adult Book by the American Library Association in their years of publication, including The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds and the young adult novels Pardon Me, You’re Stepping on My Eyeball!; Confessions of a Teenage Baboon; and The Pigman’s Legacy.

Zindel’s later works appealed to a slightly younger group of readers. In 1993, Attack of the Killer Fishsticks introduced the Wacky Facts Lunch Bunch, a group of fifth graders and their bully rivals. In addition, Zindel explored themes ranging from adventure to horror. In Raptor, Loch, and Reef of Death, Zindel’s characters encounter literal monsters as well as dysfunctional adults. Both Loch and The Doom Stone, another book of horror by Zindel, were chosen as Recommended Books for Reluctant Young Adult Readers by the American Library Association. Zindel married Bonnie Hildebrand in 1973; they had two children, David and Elizabeth. Zindel died of cancer in March, 2003, at the age of sixty-six.

BibliographyBarnes, Clive. “Troubled Times for a Teen.” Review of Amulets Against the Dragon Forces, by Paul Zindel. New York Post, April 7, 1989. Barnes finds a “commonplace honesty” beneath the play’s pretentiousness in this review of the Circle Repertory Company’s production. Barnes finds “the same quality of compassion” as in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. Barnes states that the play has “the air of a work written to enable its author to get something off his chest.”Dace, Tish. “Paul Zindel: Overview.” In Contemporary Dramatists, edited by K. A. Berney. 5th ed. Detroit: St James Press, 1993. Discusses characters, plot, and themes of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Zindel’s best-known play.DiGaetani, John L. A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. In one chapter, DiGaetani interviews Zindel about the influences of psychoanalysis on his work and the reasons for his gradual transition to young adult novels. Zindel’s destructive relation with Hollywood is also discussed with considerable candor. Asked which playwrights Zindel admires, he replied, “I’m happy to say none.”Evett, Marianne. “‘Moon-Marigolds’ Author in Nostalgic Return Here.” Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 4, 1990. This preview of Cleveland Playhouse’s revival of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, with Marlo Thomas in the role of Beatrice, includes a telephone interview with Zindel, who remembers the first productions and his “bubbly publicity agent (Bonnie Hildebrand). I ended up marrying her.” He reports here that he “escaped East [from Hollywood] to keep my sanity intact.”Fischer, David Marc. “Paul Zindel: The Shouting Play, the Whispering Novel.” Writing 24 (February/March, 2002): 20. Presents an interview with Zindel covering a discussion of his career as teacher and writer with emphasis on distinguishing between the style of language and writing appropriate for drama as opposed to the novel.Forman, Jack Jacob. Presenting Paul Zindel. Boston: Twayne, 1988. A basic biography that includes criticism and interpretation focused primarily on Zindel’s fiction. Useful indexes and bibliography.Haley, Beverly A., and Kenneth L. Donelson. “Pigs and Hamburger, Cadavers and Gamma Rays: Paul Zindel’s Adolescents.” Elementary English 51, no. 7 (October, 1974): 940-945. Provides social analysis of the values embodied by Zindel’s character development.Lesesne, Teri. “Humor, Bathos and Fear: An Interview with Paul Zindel.” Teacher Librarian 27 (December, 1999): 60. Zindel discusses his thematic emphasis on teenage misfits in young-adult novels and drama, citing a scene from The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds as an example of his best work.Oliver, Edith. “Why the Lady Is a Tramp.” The New Yorker 46, no. 9 (April 18, 1970): 82, 87-88. Reprinted in Drama for Students, volume 12. Reviews the 1970 performance of The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds directed by Melvin Bernhardt.Slaight, Craig, ed.. New Plays from ACT’s Young Conservatory. Vol. 2. Lume, N.H.: Smith and Kraus, 1996. Contains the text of Every Seventeen Minutes the Crowd Goes Crazy! with commentary by Craig Slaight, Zindel, and student actors from the play.Strickland, Ruth L. “Paul Zindel.” In Twentieth Century American Dramatists, edited by John MacNicholas. Vol. 7 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1981. Includes discussion of Zindel’s primary themes.Zindel, Paul. Interview by Audrey Eaglen. Top of the News 34, no. 2 (Winter, 1978): 178-185. Includes a discussion of Zindel’s early influences.
Categories: Authors