Originally working as a dog breeder and judge in regional dog shows, Onstott lived with his mother in California in the early 1900s. Although Onstott never married, he adopted a 23-year old college student who had lost his own parents. Onstott's greatest success was Mandingo (1957), a work about slavery in the South, and one which he hadn't begun to write until he was 65. The book was a best-seller and a national sensation. He also collaborated with his adopted son on dog breeding. His other works include Beekeeping as a Hobby (1941), Art of Breeding Better Dogs (1946), The Tatooed Rood (1960), Drum (1962) and Master of Falconhurst, (1964).
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