In April 1959, Ford sold his first short story, THE SUREST THING IN SHOW BUSINESS, to the Atlantic Monthly and was awarded the magazine’s "Atlantic First" award. 

In 1960, the CBS Television Network aired his three-act, one-hour teleplay, THE CONVERSION OF BUSTER DRUMWRIGHT.  Ford was one of nine young writers chosen by CBS to be groomed for writing television plays.  DRUMWRIGHT was judged by leading critics as the best television play by a new author to appear in the Workshop series. 

In 1961 Ford published his first novel, MOUNTAINS OF GILEAD, followed three years later by publication of both the television and stage scripts of THE CONVERSION OF BUSTER DRUMWRIGHT. 

Ford’s second novel, THE LIBERATION OF LORD BYRON JONES (1965), launched him into national prominence. It was nominated for the National Book Award in 1966, and became a successful motion picture.  Released in 1970 as THE LIBERATION OF L.B. JONES, the film starred Lee J. Cobb, Roscoe Lee Brown, Yaphet Kotto, Lola Falana, Anthony Zerbe and Lee Majors. It was director William Wyler’s final film. Ford and writer Sterling Silliphant produced the screenplay.

Two years later, Ford published FISHES, BIRDS AND SONS OF MEN, a collection of his early short stories. Then came THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS (1969), which was a look at a Florida race riot from various points of view. Ford published one other book called THE RAIDER in 1975, a historical novel set in West Tennessee before and during the Civil War.                   

For the 1977-78 academic year, Ford was writer-in-residence at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. While there, he was a mentor to future best-selling author Richard North Patterson. From 1985 to 1992, Ford contributed more than 30 editorials to USA Today. He died on June 1, 1996, at age 67 following open-heart surgery.