Browne Popular Culture Library

PCL MS-50: John Ball Collection

Introduction | Biographical Sketch | Scope and Content | Inventory


John Ball, a music critic turned mystery writer, is best known for his mysteries featuring the black detective Virgil Tibbs. Tibbs was first introduced in 1965 in The Heat of the Night. This book won an Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America and the film version, starring Sidney Poitier, won an Academy Award as best motion picture in 1967. Ball would go on to write five more novels in the Virgil Tibbs series.

The Ball Collection of .5 cubic foot consists of the manuscript for Singapore, the last novel in the Tibbs series. This manuscript was transferred to Bowling Green State University in August 1985. The collection has no restrictions placed upon its use for scholarly purposes. Researchers are responsible for securing copyright permission when using all unpublished manuscripts and published works. The Mugar Memorial Library at Boston University holds the John Ball literary archives.

This finding aid was prepared by Nancy Down in April 2009.

Biographical Sketch

John Dudley Ball, Jr. was born in Schenectady, NY in 1911.  He grew up in Milwaukee and attended Carroll College in Wisconsin. He joined Fortune magazine in 1937 and three years later became an assistant curator of the Hayden Planetarium. He wrote liner notes for Columbia record albums, was a music critic for various newspapers. At his death in 1988, he had written some 35 books, reflecting his varied background and eclectic interests. He was a vice president of the Mystery Writers of America and past president of the Los Angeles chapter. He was also a founding member of the Sherlock Holmes Society in Los Angeles and a member of the Baker Street Irregulars.

Scope and Content

The John Ball Collection consists of the manuscript for Singapore, the last mystery in the Tibbs’ series. Singapore was published in 1986. This Collection will be of interest to researchers interested in John Ball’s writings in general and, in particular, his Virgil Tibbs’ series.


Box 1

: Manuscripts-- Singapore (1986)


  1. Manuscript, Chapters 1-3
  2. Manuscript, Chapters 4-7
  3. Manuscript, Chapters 8-13
  4. Manuscript, Chapters 14-17
  5. Manuscript, Chapters 18-21
  6. Manuscript, Chapter 22-25

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