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Charles J. Shields

Biographer of Midcentury American Authors


Charles J. Shields is the author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (MacMillan 2006; revised 2016), a New York Times bestseller, a Literary Guild Selection, and a Book-of-the-Month Club Alternate.

‘This biography will not disappoint those who loved the novel and the feisty, independent, fiercely loyal Scout, in whom Harper Lee put so much of herself.’ — Garrison Keillor in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

His young adult biography of Harper Lee, I Am Scout (Owl, 2008; revised 2016) was chosen an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, and a Junior Literary Guild Selection.

In 2009, with fellow biographers Nigel Hamilton, James McGrath Morris, and Pulitzer-prize winner Debby Applegate, Shields co-founded Biographers International Organization (BIO), a non-profit organization founded to promote the art and craft of biography, and to further the professional interests of its practitioners.

In 2011, Shields published And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (St. Martin’s Press), called an ‘incisive, gossipy page-turner of a biography,’ by Janet Maslin. And So It Goes was selected as a New York Times Notable Book, and Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011.

‘Shields delivers a vivid recreation of Vonnegut’s ghastly WWII experiences as a POW during the Dresden firebombing that became the basis for Slaughterhouse-Five….Tragedies and triumphs are contrasted throughout, along with an adroit literary analysis.’— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

The announcement of the publication of Harper Lee’s second novel in 2015, Go Set Watchman set off a flurry of excitement and interest unparalleled in recent publishing history. Interviews with Shields or references to his biography appeared in 300 newspapers and magazines worldwide, including the Wall Street Journal, Esquire, Slate, the New Republic, the New Yorker, the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, the Daily Beast, the Dallas Morning News, the New York Times, the Independent, US News & World Report, the Denver Post, and the Boston Globe. He was interviewed 38 times on radio and television by, among many others, the Diane Rehm Show, NPR, Al Jezeera, C-Span, CNN with Jake Tapper, MSNBC, the BBC, and KCRW-Los Angeles.

Last year, Lebowski Publishers (the Netherlands) released Shields’ The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel, the first biography of John Edward Williams, the author of Stoner. As of summer 2017, it has been translated into Dutch, Swedish, German, and Italian. This fall, he will appear in a documentary on Sundance TV and AMC about the Clutter family of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

Jack Kerouac had a Hermes and I did, too! 

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