Author. Screenplay Writer.

Author. Screenplay Writer.



Robert C.S. Downs was born in Chicago, and was brought up just outside New York City. He is a graduate of Harvard College, and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He’s published seven novels, one collection of short stories, and wrote the screenplay for the CBS-Television production of “White Mama,” which starred Bette Davis. Three of his novels have been produced for television, one each by NBC, CBS, and the BBC, the last of which won five British Academy Awards and was voted Best Television Film of the year in Great Britain. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and an NAACP Image Award nomination. He’s taught in and has been director of the MFA programs at Penn State and the University of Arizona. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Penn State University.  He and his wife, Barbara, have two daughters, Christina and Susan.  He tries to play golf as much as he can in State College, PA.





"White mama" (1984)

Starring Bette Davis and Ernest Harden Jr.

Directed by Jackie Cooper

 Estelle Malone was all alone—and poor— after her husband passed away. The idea of sharing her home with 16-year-old B.T., who had squeaked out one more chance after stealing a car, was less appealing than the weekly $100 the city would pay for his board. Mrs. Malone had no choice. She’d give it a try. 

Estelle Malone got more than she bargained for. B.T.’s drinking, his boxing, his hanging around on the New York City streets were hard to take. Just the same, a special kind of friendship seemed to grow between them. That is, until one day Mrs. Malone came home and discovered every possession she had was gone.

Billy: portrait of a street kid (1977)


 A ghetto youngster tries to make something of himself through education but despairs of ever getting out of his bleak environment.  That is, until he gets a job as an assistant in a veterinarian's office, and working with the animals begins to affect him, and his outlook on life. 

Starring Levar Burton and Tina Andrews

Directed by Steven Gethers

going gently (1981)

Two men in their 60's sharing a hospital room after their diagnoses of terminal cancer struggle with fear, physical pain, the difficulties of being in hospital, family members unable to cope, loneliness, and their unusual friendship.


Norman Wisdom, Judi Dench, Fulton Mackay

Directed by Stephen Frears




Seventy-year-old Pete Collins, a former high-school English teacher from Pennsylvania, now living in Myrtle Beach, attempts to pass the PGA’s Playing Ability Test, which will lead him to a position as a teaching professional at a golf club. The test is two rounds of golf in one day in which he must average 77 for a 154 total. . . we see the true highs and lows of golf, both in Pete’s play and in that of the others in his foursome, two young post-college players and his middle-age partner Horatio, who’s taken and failed the test many times. Quite simply, this is a will-he-or-won’t-he story in which a man is pitted against himself to try to achieve his life’s dream.

Diversion Books (2012) 

the cape may stories


A winter sunset. A summer sunrise. The sounds of surf and children’s voices. A foghorn calls to break the quiet dark...

"Lyrical and evocative as a shower of shooting stars on a warm summer night, each of these 12 connected tales “moments in time” flash brilliantly, then fade into the larger backdrop of the cosmos, leaving the reader with the undeniable feeling that something quite extraordinary has occurred."

Windstorm Creative (2008) 

the fifth season


Within hours of visiting his aging parents in Fort Lauderdale, 60-year-old Teddy Neil realizes his parents are in a lot worse shape than he imagined. His father, Abel, a corporate man who had made a little fortune in the stock market and is a mid-level executive at Union Carbide, is in four-point restraints in bed 2 on the 5th floor of the hospital having lost his left kidney to cancer...


"In onrushing and meticulous prose, Downs lets us witness the love and beauty, the pain and frustration of Able and Lillian as they passed through the winter of their lives and enter their 5th and eternal season."

Counterpoint (2000)

living together


A tale of high adventure, suspense, and survival, this is also the love story of Janice Norman and Charlie Perkins, who meet casually as they are about to board a small commuter plane. He is divorced, she is engaged, they are not destined to meet again— except that their plane crashes in the Northwest Maine Woods in late November and they are the only survivors. 

St. Martin's Press (1983)

white mama


 A poor, elderly white woman living in a tenement in a black ghetto is befriended by a neighborhood boy, and the two of them form a mutually beneficial relationship: he provides her companionship and protection, and she becomes the mother he never had.

Ballantine Books (1980)

going gently


Two men, one a salesman, the other a college professor, share a hospital room.  They also share the knowledge that both of them are dying of cancer.  This is a story about death, and at the same time it is an affirmation of life...

Bobbs-Merrill Company (1973)

“I can think of few writers—but for Tolstoy— who have written so unswervingly well about the last, the greatest mystery” 

--John Clellon Holmes

"Robert C.S. Downs has created a deep and moving story of man's frailty and courage."



The great book is, invariably, a great character. And Billy Peoples is one of the greatest characters you’ll ever meet. He is also one of the warmest and funniest. Billy is young and black and lives in an urban ghetto. He has all the problems associated with ghetto living… It is only to the dogs in his care that he speaks of his frustrations with drugs, his efforts to get a high school equivalency diploma, and his groping toward manhood. In working with the animals, and learning to perform simple operations on them and to care for them he slowly develops the sensitive maturity that brings him, in the end, a warm and heartfelt success.

Bobbs-Merrill (1974)

“Robert C. S. Downs is the possessor of a rare talent

. . . Peoples is a book so different from his first yet so similar in expressive power that his future work should be awaited with anticipation.”

--John DeMers

Country Dying


Franklin Sorenson was a man who could get the job done, whether it was bulldozing a path through a stand of willows or cutting a wide swath through the sentimental undergrowth of people who didn’t recognize progress when they saw it.  The people of Oldenfield were just like the town: old beyond usefulness and brittle with dead memories. The only thing that stood up straight in the town were surveyor’s sticks marking the path of the new state highway. And they been set up by Sorenson’s men . . . This is the story of the ferocity of one man’s will, backed by his bulldozers and the power of the state, pitted against the collective will of people who had decided that there are some things you can’t give up, even in the name of progress. People who, if the need arose, would kill or be killed to hold their ground.

Bobbs-Merrill (1976)