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Lois Duncan

Lois Duncan

American young-adult and children's writer
Lois Duncan
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American young-adult and children's writer
Was Writer Novelist Children's writer Journalist Screenwriter
From United States of America
Type Film, TV, Stage & Radio Journalism Literature
Gender female
Birth 28 April 1934, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 15 June 2016, Bradenton, Manatee County, Florida, USA (aged 82 years)
Star sign Taurus
Father: Joseph Janney Steinmetz
Duke University
University of New Mexico
Sarasota High School
Margaret Edwards Award 1992
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award 1978
Children's literature
The details


Lois Duncan Steinmetz (April 28, 1934 – June 15, 2016), known as Lois Duncan, was an American writer of children's books, best known for young-adult novels of suspense. She wrote two early novels under the pen name Lois Kerry.

Duncan received the 1992 Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association for her contribution to writing for teens.

Early life

Lois Duncan was born as Lois Duncan Steinmetz on April 28, 1934, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to photographers Lois Duncan (née Foley) and Joseph Janney Steinmetz. She grew up in Sarasota, Florida, and started writing and submitting manuscripts to magazines at age 10. She sold her first story at the age of 13.

Duncan on the cover of a 1949 issue of Collier's, photographed by her father.


Duncan attended Duke University from 1952 to 1953 but dropped out, married, and started a family. During this time, she continued to write and publish magazine articles; she has written more than 300 articles published in magazines such as Ladies' Home Journal, Redbook, McCall's, Good Housekeeping, and Reader's Digest. Later she moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to teach journalism at the University of New Mexico, where she also earned a B.A. in English in 1977.

Duncan is best known for her novels of suspense for teenagers. Some of her works have been adapted for the screen, the most infamous example being the 1997 film I Know What You Did Last Summer, adapted from her novel of the same title. The film was directed by Jim Gillespie and starred Jennifer Love HewittSarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillippe.

In 1989, the youngest of Duncan's children, Kaitlyn Arquette, was murdered in Albuquerque. Who Killed My Daughter? relates fact and conjecture about the still-unsolved case. Duncan has said that her "dream is to write a sequel to Who Killed My Daughter? to give our family's true life horror story a closure. Of course, for that to be possible, Kait's case must be solved." Duncan also founded a research center to help investigate cold cases, which later became the nonprofit Resource Center for Victims of Violent Deaths. After Kait's death, Duncan began writing children's picture books, saying that she could no longer write about young women in life-threatening situations.

The 1971 children's book Hotel for Dogs has been adapted as a 2009 film of the same name starring Emma RobertsJake T. Austin, and Don Cheadle. Duncan appears as an extra in the crowd scene.

Honors and legacy

The ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award recognizes one writer and a particular body of work for "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature". Duncan won the annual award in 1992 and the young adult librarians now name six books published from 1966 to 1987, the autobiographical Chapters and five novels: RansomI Know What You Did Last SummerSummer of FearKilling Mr. Griffin, and The Twisted Window. The citation observes, "Whether accepting responsibility for the death of an English teacher or admitting to their responsibility for a hit and run accident, Duncan's characters face a universal truth—your actions are important and you are responsible for them."

Personal life

Duncan had three children with her first husband: daughters Robin and Kerry and son Brett. Her first marriage ended in divorce. In 1965 she married Don Arquette, an electrical engineer; they have two children: son Donald Junior and daughter Kaitlyn. Her three oldest children all took her second husband's name.


Duncan died at her home in Bradenton, Florida of undisclosed causes on June 15, 2016, at the age of 82. It was noted by her husband, Donald Arquette Sr., that Duncan had suffered a series of strokes in the years prior.


Anthologies edited

  • Night Terrors (1996)
  • Trapped! (1998)
  • On the Edge (2000)


  • Dream Songs from Yesterday (1987), Silver Moon Prod.
  • Songs from Dreamland (1988), Random House; ill. Kay Chorao
  • Our Beautiful Day (1988), Silver Moon Prod.
  • The Story of Christmas (1989), Silver Moon Prod.
  • Psychics in Action (1993), Silver Moon Prod.


  • Love Song for Joyce (1958), Funk & Wagnalls †
  • Debutante Hill (1958), Dodd, Mead and Co.
  • A Promise for Joyce (1959), Funk & Wagnalls †
  • The Middle Sister (1960), Dodd, Mead and Co.
  • Game of Danger (1962), Dodd, Mead and Co.
  • Season of the Two-Heart (1965), Dodd, Mead and Co.
  • Point of Violence (1966), Doubleday
  • Ransom (1966), Doubleday ‡
  • They Never Came Home (1968), Doubleday
  • Major Andre, Brave Enemy (1968), G. P. Putnam's Sons; ill. Tran Mawicke
  • Peggy (1970), Little, Brown and Co.
  • Hotel for Dogs (1971), Houghton Mifflin; ill. Leonard Shortall ‡
  • A Gift of Magic (1971), Little, Brown and Co.; ill. Arvis Stewart
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer (1973), Little, Brown and Co. ‡
  • When the Bough Breaks (1973), Doubleday
  • Down a Dark Hall (1974), Little, Brown and Co. ‡
  • Summer of Fear (1976), Little, Brown and Co. ‡
  • Killing Mr. Griffin (1978), Little, Brown and Co. ‡
  • Daughters of Eve (1979), Little, Brown and Co.
  • Stranger with My Face (1981), Random House ‡
  • The Third Eye (1984), Little, Brown and Co.
  • Locked in Time (1985), Little, Brown and Co.
  • The Twisted Window (1987), Delacorte
  • Don't Look Behind You (1989), Delacorte
  • Gallows Hill (1997), Delacorte ‡
  • News for Dogs (2009), Scholastic
  • Movie for Dogs (2010), Scholastic

† As Lois Kerry
‡ Works that have been adapted into films


  • How to Write and Sell Your Personal Experiences (1979), Writer's Digest Books
  • Chapters: My Growth as a Writer (1982), Little, Brown and Co.
  • Who Killed My Daughter? (1992), Delacorte
  • Psychic Connections (1995), Duncan and William Roll
  • One to the Wolves (2013) sequel to Who Killed My Daughter

Picture and chapter books

  • The Littlest One in the Family (1959), illustrated by Suzanne K. Larsen
  • Silly Mother (1962), The Dial Press, ill. Larsen - 1963 Caldecott Honor Book
  • Giving Away Suzanne (1962), Dodd, Mead & Co.; ill. Leonard Weisgard
  • The Terrible Tales of Happy Days School (1983), Little, Brown and Co.; ill. Friso Henstra
  • Horses of Dreamland (1985), Little, Brown and Co.; ill. Donna Diamond
  • Wonder Kid Meets the Evil Lunch Snatcher (1988), Little, Brown and Co.; ill. Margaret Sanfilippo
  • The Birthday Moon (1989), Viking; ill. Susan Davis
  • The Circus Comes Home (1993), Doubleday; photos by Duncan's father Joseph Steinmetz
  • The Magic of Spider Woman (1996), Scholastic; ill. Shonto Begay
  • The Longest Hair in the World (1999), Dragonfly; ill. Jon Macintosh
  • I Walk at Night (2000), Viking; ill. Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
  • Song of the Circus (2002), Philomel; ill. Meg Cundiff

Poetry collections

  • From Spring to Spring (1983), Westminster John Knox Pr.
  • Seasons of the Heart (2007)

Film adaptations


1997I Know What You Did Last SummerDirected by Jim Gillespie and starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ryan Phillippe.
2009Hotel for Dogs

Directed by Thor Freudenthal and starring Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, and Don Cheadle

Duncan appears as an extra in the crowd scene.

2018Down a Dark HallDirected by Rodrigo Cortés and starring AnnaSophia Robb, Uma Thurman, and Isabelle Fuhrman


1978Summer of Fear 
1997Killing Mr. Griffin 
1998I've Been Waiting for YouBased on Gallows Hill 
1999Don't Look Behind You 
2000Held for Ransom 
2009Stranger with My Face 
To cite the article
We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you notice a mistake, please contact us. Below the article, you will find links to the references used.
Article Title: Lois Duncan: American young-adult and children's writer - Biography and Life
Author(s): PeoplePill.com Editorial Staff
Website Title: PeoplePill
Publisher: PeoplePill
Article URL: https://peoplepill.com/people/lois-duncan/
Publish Date: 29 Dec 2016
Date Accessed: 27 Oct 2020
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