The son of scientist, John Ball was born in Schenectady, New York, grew up in Milwaukee, and attended Caroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He subsequently worked as a science staff writer for Fortune, a feature writer for the Brooklyn Eagle, a daily columnist on the New York World-Telegram & Sun, and a broadcaster for a Washington, D.C., radio station. His IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1965) – in which he introduced his best-known character, Virgil Tibbs, a detective in the Pasadena police department, memorably played by Sidney Poitier in the movie of the same name -- was awarded the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best First Mystery Novel. It was followed by six more mysteries featuring Virgil Tibbs. In addition, John Ball wrote many other adult and young adult novels.