“If this were a just world, In Cold Blood would appear as ‘by Truman Capote with Harper Lee.'” — Charles J. Shields


Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee from Scout to Go Set a Watchman (2016)


Harper Lee signed a copy of her biography.

Shields’s first biography for adults in 2006— Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (Holt) went on to become a New York Times bestseller, and a perennial favorite of readers and teachers. The revised and updated edition, reframed from the perspective of the recent publication of Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is available online and at major bookstores.

Mockingbird by Charles Shields

Fifty-thousand new words with fresh information about Go Set a Watchman and Miss Lee’s final years.


“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,” wrote Garrison Keillor in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

In connection with the NEA’s “Big Read” initiative, Shields spoke to hundreds of audiences about his biography of Harper Lee for community-wide reads of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Unknown-2Two years later, Shields followed-up his biography of Lee with a young adult version: I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee (Holt), which received awards from ALA Best Books for Young Adults; Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year; and the Arizona Grand Canyon Young Readers Master List.


And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (2011)

------2 colscolorIn November 2011, Shields published the first biography of Kurt Vonnegut— And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (Holt), described as an “incisive, gossipy page-turner of a biography,” by Janet Maslin and an “engrossing, definitive biography” by Publishers Weekly in a starred review. It was selected as a New York Times Notable Book, and Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011.

“An engaging, surprising and empathetic page-turner”— Deirdre Donahue, USA Today

“The first truly exacting look into the life of a man who has fascinated so many.”— Esquire 




John Williams: The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel (slated for 2016)

stoner-1Oscar van Gelderen of Lebowski Publisher (Dutch Media) will publish Shields’ biography of John Williams, author of Butcher’s Crossing, Stoner, and the National Book Award winning, Augustus (1973). This will be the first biography of Williams, whose popularity has been soaring in Europe. Sales of Williams’ books have landed all three of his novels on bestseller lists abroad. In addition, his works have gone into over 30 translations since 2011.

biologoIn  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. As of 2014, BIO has 350 members in 45 American states and 10 nations, including Australia, India, Kenya, and the Netherlands.


  1. Joanne Greenberg

    I would prefer to write to you in a LETTER because the cybers and I have been long at war.Thank you for giving me the chance to read about you and your other work. I plan to get both books. I felt the same way about Vonnegut as one of your correspondents did–I read him like salty peanuts and ultimately was driven off. I had some nice correspondence with his son regarding Ronnie Laing. Keep rhe flag flying.

  2. Jon Aaron

    Dear Mr. Shields,

    I have been teaching To Kill a Mockingbird for three decades as an 8th grade English teacher at an independent school just outside of Baltimore, MD. I have also read “Portrait” and have found it an invaluable resource in breathing life into all aspects of Lee’s novel. I was just re-reading “Portrait” in preparation for a course I am teaching this fall on Mockingbird and Watchman (this course’s audience features folks ranging from 55 to 90 years old!), and I just heard about your revision coming out next month. I need your advice as to whether I should suspend my re-reading– should I expect that your insights on Watchman will be intricately woven into the text or will you reserve a chapter or more for Watchman? I eagerly await your insights in the revision, and I would love to speak to you about Watchman if a personal meeting or phone call suits you.


    Jon Aaron

  3. Denis Zakharov

    Hi Charles! My name is Denis Zakharov Ph.D (history) and writer – the only literature specialist in Russia, who specializes in researching and popularizing the literary legacy of the American writer Truman Capote. If you look at the letter, sending by Truman Capote to Alvin and Marie Dewey from Spain (28 April 1960), you can see very interesting P.S. “So glad the Grapevine article turned out well!” (Too brief a treat, edited by G.Clarke P.279-280.) So, the question is: did Truman glad about the article, wrote by himself or just glad that article about Dewey (by Harper Lee) turned out (but there were no mentions about Harper Lee in this letter).

  4. Brian Doherty

    Hi- delighted to hear there’ll be a biography of John Williams: when will it be published, do you know? Really looking forward to reading it!


  5. Ken Kelly

    Mr. Shields,

    Looking forward to the new release “Mockingbird”.

    I have already placed an order for the book with Jake Reiss, owner of Alabama Booksmith.

    I have been purchasing signed books from him for a while. He emails me book titles, author names and mini-synopsis of books he thinks I would be interested in. Just received such an email and the book was on the list. Sorry I won’t be there in person for the signing, but look forward to receiving it and reading.

    My best always,

    Ken Kelly, a southern writer and southern themed book collector

  6. Anonymous

    I loved the 2008 version “I Am Scout” and I was wondering where I could find the next version. I’m sure I will enjoy it as much as the others!

  7. Quincy Whitney

    Hello Charles and Guadalupe!
    Happy New Year this 2016!–finally the year of my art-science-music biography American Luthier: Carleen Hutchins–the Art and Science of the Violin, to be released officially by University Press of New England in April, 2016–but advance copies will available to me in late March. Guadalupe, do you recall our conversation at BIO a few years back? Trying to get advice from you two about how to get a chance to present my book at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Do you have a contact or advice? I can send you more information but did not know if my email address for you was current.

  8. Stephen Kahn

    Dear Mr. Shields,

    I just finished reading AND SO IT GOES, and thoroughly loved it. I’ve been a science fiction reader since the age of 10. At 15, in high school near NY city (one of the six I attended because my father worked for the real life counterpart of “Dr. Strangelove” writing computer programs that would have launched the bombers to blow up Moscow in what was called MAD during the “Cold War”), I read PLAYER PIANO and was much confused and beguiled by it. For a couple of decades I read everything I could by Vonnegut, and then became very weary of him. I did wonder what the man was really like, and why h seemed so beguiling and irritating and confusing. I am now 71, and kind of completing “bucket list” types of tasks. When I came across your book I was immediately drawn to it in search of understanding the mystery of Vonnegut and my ambiguous fascination and then repulsion. I find you a fine writer, obviously willing to do the heavy lifting of writing a biography of a complex and varied life. As best I can tell, you are a fair and judicious person in your evaluation of Vonnegut’s life. I now feel that my perplexity about the man and my reaction to his work (most of which I had read) has been reasonably analyzed and that “hole in my bucket” has been patched about as well as it can be. Thank you.

    Stephen Kahn
    Whidbey Island, WA

  9. Carol Woodruff

    Dear Mr. Shields,
    I loved reading “Mockingbird…,” and fully appreciated the in-depth research you obviously conducted in putting the material together. I also admired the way you preserved Harper Lee’s dignity. She is clearly a very special and perceptive being.

    I also read “Go Set a Watchman,” and look forward to reading your revised biography, next year.

    Kind regards,
    Carol Woodruff
    Los Angeles


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