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Burning Sappho Hardcover – 27 Mar 1975


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Born Martha Jane Jones, May 27, 1917 in Louisville, Kentucky to Evan Jones and his wife the former Noreen Sorrell. Noreen died in the 1918 flu pandemic when Martha was a year and a half old; with her young father unable to care for her, she was raised by her paternal Grandparents, Owen Jones and his wife Elizabeth or Lizzy, who were of Welsh and Scottish extraction.

She grew up in the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, surrounded by a large Upper Middle Class extended family, which was spread out along Portland Avenue and nearby streets. Her Great Grandfather, W.O. Jones (who had immigrated to America in 1857), and her Grandfather Evan Jones, were partners in a boiler works factory, C.J.Walton & Son, that employed some of the family, including her father Evan Jones. A short story, THE PEPPERMINTS, based upon those early days in Portland is available as a Kindle book on Amazon.

While still in the first grade her Grandfather Owen would give her a quarter ($.25) for each poem she wrote; growing up she had several poems published in Louisville newspapers and magazines, and at the age of 10, she won a national one-act play contest. Martha Jane attended the Louisville Public Schools, before graduating at the age of fifteen from Louisville Girls High School. She won a scholarship to the University of Cincinnati's Drama School, the College-Conservatory of Music, which she attended for several years. Before she graduated, she wrote to Lynn Fontanne of the acting couple The Lunts, and was invited by Miss Fontanne to audition in New York for their newly formed repertory theatre company.

After moving to New York City, Martha became a model with the Harry Conover agency. In 1940 the "ashcan school" artist, John Sloan painted four portraits of her; "Lady From Louisville", "Blue Eyed Girl" and "Miss Jones" are all in the collection of the Delaware Art Museum, "Dramatics" also known as "Portrait of a Lady in Red", is in a private collection. As an actress in the 1940s and 1950s, Martha Jones made her Broadway debut with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in "The Pirate" in 1942, and was Miss Fontanne's protégé. She appeared in "Blythe Spirit", "Arsenic and Old Lace", "The Heiress", "The Respectful Prostitute", and other plays, both on Broadway and on tour in the USA and Canada. In July 1943, she married actor Robert Emhardt, with whom she debuted in "The Pirate".

After her first marriage ended, she remarried in November 1952 to Ralph Rofheart, an art director and advertising executive, by whom she had one child Evan, in 1957. Soon after her son was born, she chose to be a full-time mother, and she stopped pursuing acting. In the late 1960s she began working as a freelance advertising copywriter. In the early 1970s, under her married name, Martha Rofheart wrote a novel of Henry V of England, "Fortune Made His Sword", which was purchased, by William Targ, then the Editor-In-Chief of Putnams. It was optioned as a Book-Of-The-Month Club selection for March 1972, published in the UK as "Cry God For Harry", London: Talmy, [1972]. Critic Granville Hicks, reviewing "Fortune Made His Sword" in The New York Times Book Review, wrote that Rofheart "deftly avoids the dangers" of writing about a subject that's "Shakespeare territory".

After "Fortune Made His Sword", Martha Rofheart wrote five novels," Glendower Country", New York, Putnam [1973], in the UK published as "Cry God for Glendower", London : Talmy Franklin, [1973], "My Name Is Sappho", New York : Putnam, [1974], "Burning Sappho" in the UK, London : Talmy Franklin, [1975], a fictionalized theatrical family saga entitled The Savage Brood, New York : Putnam, [1974],"The Alexandrian", New York : Crowell, [1976] a novel of Cleopatra and "Lionheart!: A Novel of Richard I, King of England", New York : Simon and Schuster, [1981].

Many of Martha's novels were translated into German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and Serbian. In May 2013, The Alexandrian was translated and published in Italy by Castelvecchi. Based upon her, "outstanding contribution to Modern fiction", with the publication of "Glendower Country", Rofheart was elected on November 21, 1974, A DAUGHTER of MARK TWAIN, by Cyril Clemens and the Mark Twain Journal.

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