James Sinclair Ross, writer (b at Shellbrook, Sask 22 Jan 1908; d at Vancouver, BC 29 Feb 1996). Ross was one of Canada's most respected writers, in particular for his acclaimed novel, As for me and my House. Shortly after Ross was born, his family separated, and "Jimmy" was raised by his mother. He left school at 16 to join the Royal Bank of Canada as a clerk at Abbey, Sask. Banking became his lifelong career. He wrote in his spare time, and in 1934 his first story, "No Other Way," was published in London, England. Like most of Ross's fiction, it is set on the Canadian prairies. There ensued a productive period of storywriting for small Canadian magazines. The best-known stories, "The Painted Door,""A Field of Wheat" and "The Lamp at Noon," have been much anthologized. Several were later collected as The Lamp at Noon and Other Stories (1968).
Their well-crafted structures and precise images have brought many readers to appreciate Ross's work. In them, he presented a theme that remained a preoccupation: intellectual isolation. Ross was little known to the Canadian or international public until his first novel, As For Me and My House, was published in New York in 1941. It was immediately hailed as superior, with its insight into the barren existence of Horizon, Sask. Often perceived as a gloomy portrait of rather miserable people, the book has surprising moments of humour and satire. The theme of triumph over the stultifying effects of small-town life and the Depression is its greatest strength and what differentiates it from Main Street, the Sinclair Lewis novel with which it is often compared. Its psychological penetration guarantees its place in modern Canadian literature.
Ross's next 2 novels, The Well (1958) and Whir of Gold (1970), failed to make much critical impact. His novella called Sawbones Memorial (1974), however, is a technical tour de force, relying more on dramatic than narrative technique. It consists of a series of dialogues and interior monologues in which the history of the town and most of its inhabitants is powerfully recreated. Upon retirement from the Royal Bank in 1968, Ross moved to Greece and then to Spain. Ill health prompted his return to Canada in 1980.