Newspaper Room in the Library of Congress Faces Possible Closing
While the Main Reading Room seems safe from closure, others could be shuttered, according to sources at the Library of Congress.
The Library of Congress is contemplating closing its Newspaper and Current Periodical Room. The potential closing is part of what is being called a “continuing effort to examine selected service improvements at the Library of Congress” led by Blane K. Dessy, executive director of the Federal Library and Information Network (FEDLINK). The network is an organization of federal agencies charged with increasing the efficient use of federal libraries and information centers by promoting common services and coordinating and sharing available resources, among other things.
The Library and FEDLINK have been tight-lipped about the possible closing of the Newspaper Room and the rumored closing of other reading rooms. But sources within the library believe that a plan under consideration would move the microfilmed portion of the Newspaper Room to the overcrowded microfilm room near the main reading room and would integrate its collection of books into the main stacks. No information was known about what would happen to the bound issues of newspapers.
“If this is true,” said BIO president James McGrath Morris, “it would destroy an important center of research, endanger the safety of irreplaceable publications and diminish the valuable reference consultations available to researchers.”
When BIO sent a query to the library staff about the potential closing, Dessy said he had been asked to lead the review of what is being called “selected service improvements” at the library.
“The Library of Congress is always looking for ways to improve services to the Congress, the scholarly community, and the American people,” Dessy said. “We are currently engaged in an effort to evaluate changes in several service areas. At this stage, nothing has been decided. Our goal remains to provide state-of-the-art services in the most effective and convenient way for all.”
BIO’s board expressed its concern about this potential loss of a research facility in a resolution that says, in part, “Biographers International Organization considers the Newspaper Reading Room an invaluable asset to readers, writers, and researchers and strongly encourages the Library of Congress not to close its Newspaper Room or limit accessibility to its materials.”
Great Lives Series Kicks Off
anniversary season of the Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series began last month, with Philip Freeman speaking about Julius Caesar. The lectures, which are free and typically draw several hundred people, are sponsored by the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
In the months to come, the lectures will look at the lives of such diverse figures as Brigham Young, Rasputin, Marian Anderson, Michelangelo, and Walter Cronkite. Lecturers will include BIO member Carl Rollyson, Sally Bedell Smith, Michael Burlingame, and Arnold Rampersad, winner of the 2012 BIO Award.
BIO is a proud program affiliate of the Great Lives Series, with BIO vice president Brian Jay Jones serving as the liaison with the university. In an interview with fredericksburg.com, Jones noted, “A good biography is a great life well-told. A great life can even be a small life well-told. Everyone’s got a compelling story.”
Researcher to the Stars Offers Tips
Michael Hill studied law and public affairs before becoming an independent researcher.
Ken Burns says he “loves him like a brother.” Biographers ranging from David McCullough to Michael Korda have relied on his services. And now he’s winning favorable attention for his efforts as the editor and annotator of the documents of a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln who was a political bigwig in his day, though is mostly forgotten now.
He is Michael Hill, the researcher Burns, McCullough, Jon Meacham and others turn to over and over again when they begin their historical projects. In November, Hill released his book on Elihu Washburne, an early political ally of Lincoln who later served as U.S. ambassador to France. Hill graciously agreed to answer some questions about life as a researcher, offering some tips BIO members might find useful. Here are some excerpts from his comments; the complete interview is on the BIO website
TBC: You’ve just been hired for a new biographical project or are beginning one of your own. Briefly, what are your first steps in beginning research?
Hill: First, find out what manuscript collections are in existence and are they currently open to researchers. Where are they located and how extensive are they—i.e., do they contain diaries, correspondence, notebooks and photographs? Not only would I be interested in collections concerning the subject of the biography, but also collections of people who knew the subject, were related to him or worked with him. Related to this is to find out what, if any, oral history collections exist. Finally, is there audiovisual material related to the subject in any of the archives?
Second, find out if anyone is still alive who knew the subject: children, spouses, staff members, contemporaries, and/or journalists. Not only might they be a good interview, but oftentimes these people have diaries or letters or other materials which would not be found in any archive and can be extraordinarily useful.
Third, what newspapers and other periodicals might have covered the subject and his or her time period? The Library of Congress has an exceptional collection of newspapers, which I have used over the years.
Fourth, what museums or house museums might still exist which relate to the subject of the biography?
Fifth, if it is a military subject, find out if the battlefields or theater of operations still exist. Seeing these sites firsthand can provide tremendous insight and detail for specific scenes.
TBC: Any others tips or words of encouragement for our members as they do their research?
Hill: It [his experience with the Washburne book] should be a source of encouragement to anyone who has a passion for history and has always thought about writing a book about history or biography. Just do it.
Spring Biographical Offerings
The “strange political marriage” of the 34th president and the future 37th should make for interesting reading.
While the fall remains the favorite season for publishers to bring out their heavy hitters, there is no lack of substantial and important biographies on the spring list of 2013. Here are some titles, among many, likely to garner considerable attention.
Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage by Jeffrey Frank will be published by Simon & Schuster this month and was touted in a recent issue of the New Yorker. In April the company will bring out the long-awaited Bolivar: American Liberator by former Washington Post book editor Marie Arana.
American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath by Carl Rollyson was published in January by St. Martin’s Press. Two other books about the poet will follow it. Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson will be published by Scribner this month, and Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder will come out from Harper in April.
Another female writer on the list of subjects for the spring is Jane Austen (can one ever have too many books on her?). The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne, came out in January from Harper
Along the lines of calling a biography “real,” Henry Holt published Andrew Marr’s The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II last month.
A forgotten American president gets his due this month, when Harper delivers Amity Shlaes’s Coolidge and next month, Encounter Books offers a companion book, Why Coolidge Matters: Leadership Lessons from America’s Most Underrated President by Charles C. Johnson.
Megan Marshall’s Margaret Fuller: A New American Life will be published in March by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Last year, Fuller was the subject of John Matteson’s most recent biography. Andrea Pitzer’s The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov will also be published in March by Houghton.
Blake Bailey, biographer of John Cheever, is back with a new work with the unusual title Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson, which Knopf will publish in March.
For readers old enough to remember what television was once like, in April Viking is bringing out Flip: The Inside Story of TV’s First Black Superstar by Kevin Cook. Recording artist, songwriter, entrepreneur, voice actor, record producer, educator, and philanthropist William James Adams’s life is the subject of Will.i.am: The Unauthorized Biography by Danny White from publisher Michael O’Mara. And for readers who loved the old American Heritagemagazine, Scribner is publishing I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford by Richard Snow, who edited the magazine in its heyday.
Yale University continues its tradition of producing attention-getting biographies. It already began the season with biographies of two noted subjects: The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought by Susan Jacoby and Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson by Barbara Ransby
On the heels of David Nasaw’s biography of Joseph Kennedy, out last fall, comes Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch by Barbara A. Perry, which W. W. Norton & Company will publish in July.
Biography Club prize winner Clare Mulley’s The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville will come out in June in an American edition by St. Martin’s Press.
And, lastly, for those who once drove a car with an eight-track tape player, comes The Bee Gees: The Biography by David N. Meyer from Da Capo Press
Five Questions with Vladimir Alexandrov
Alexandrov teaches Russian literature and history at Yale University.
What’s your current project and what stage is it at?
I’m working on publicity for The Black Russian(forthcoming from Grove/Atlantic on March 5)—my biography of the remarkable Frederick Bruce Thomas, the son of former slaves in Mississippi who became a millionaire theatrical impresario in pre-Revolutionary Moscow and the “Sultan of Jazz” in Constantinople. I’ve supplemented the publisher’s efforts by hiring an independent publicist to help with media exposure and am also doing a lot myself to arrange book tours around the country. Incidentally, most of what I know about book publicity—and especially about what an author has to do these days—I learned by attending panels at BIO conferences.
Which person would you most like to write about?
Like many others, I’m fascinated by the American Civil War and by the Russian Revolution (and the civil war that followed there). So, I’m now investigating several figures in both periods, although always with an eye out for links between Russia and the United States, which are often little known and are a special interest of mine.
What’s your favorite biography/who is your favorite biographer?
That’s an impossible question because there are too many biographers whose work I admire; I also like a lot of historians. There are at least a dozen biographies published in the last few years that have given me ideas about everything from subjects to narrative techniques to research methods. I’ll list just a few of the many authors from whom I have learned: Stacy Schiff, Arnold Rampersad, James McGrath Morris, Joseph Frank, Robert Caro, Jon Meacham.
What was your most frustrating moment as a biographer? Most satisfying?
Most frustrating was going to the National Archives in London with expectations of finding documents on people and topics related to my subject, and discovering that most of these had been destroyed decades earlier by archivists because they were deemed of insufficient national importance. Most satisfying was when I figured out the location of an entire dossier on my subject in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, after a staff archivist had searched in vain for several days. That was the tipping point that made writing The Black Russianpossible.
Do you have one research/marketing/attitudinal tip to share?
Enhance your luck by weaving all your research nets as finely as possible and casting them as often and as widely as possible.
You can find out more about Vladimir and his work at his website
and his blog
Laurence has previously written about Virginia Woolf.
Biographer Explores Importance of Place at CUNY Graduate Center
Patricia Laurence will speak on the importance of place in biography at the next Works-in-Progress Dorothy O. Helly Women’s Writing Women’s Lives Lecture, held at the CUNY Graduate Center. Lawrence will examine the topic in the context of her current work, a biography of Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973). Bowen’s sensitivity to mood and place in her writing will be traced through the biographer’s travel to Dublin and Farahy, Ireland, and most recently to Hythe and London, England—not only places where Bowen lived but gathering places for history and feeling. The lecture is free and will be held on March 11 at 4 p.m. You can find more information on the talkhere
White Glove Treatment May Boost Sales
BIO board member and UK literary agent Andrew Lownie has announced a new avenue for his authors to make their books more widely available, and it might be something BIO members, working through their agents, would like to consider too. Lownie will be using the Amazon White Glove program, which digitizes books and creates basic book covers for free, producing both e-books and physical copies through Print-on-Demand. There is no license period, so the book can be withdrawn from the program at any time, and White Glove pays authors 70% receipts; for books his agency represents, Lownie will take the usual 15%. For Lownie’s authors, the program will make some of the agency’s front- and back-list titles available in English-speaking territories where e-book rights are not controlled by the publisher. Amazon will also provide some marketing support. Lownie hopes White Glove “will help to attract publishers here and abroad, generating interest and reviews, and proving a book’s commercial potential.” Amazon does not have information about the service online, which it is targeting at literary agents.
Biographers’ Club Reports Two Upcoming Events
Helen Rappaport will talk on “The Search for a Subject: New Ways of Looking at Old Stories,” when London’s Biographers’ Club meets on Tuesday, February, 12 at 6:30 p.m. Rappaport’s works includeMagnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy
. The event will be at the Savile Club, 69 Brook Street, London W1. Tickets are £20. Please send check (made out to the Biographers’ Club) to Nicholas Clee, 8 Plimsoll Road, London N4 2EW. To pay by bank transfer, email firstname.lastname@example.org
for the club’s bank details.
Then, next month on the 7th, the club will host a luncheon featuring Neil McKenna, who will talk about his latest book, Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England. It’s a gripping story of cross-dressing, cross-examinations and the invention of camp. McKenna is an award-winning journalist and author of the highly praised The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde. The luncheon is at Corrigan’s, 28 Upper Grosvenor Street, London W1K 7EH. Tickets are £40. Follow the same instructions as above for purchasing tickets.
IHR Conference Examines History and Biography
On March 8, the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London will explore “History and Biography.” The IHR website says, “This year’s IHR winter conference showcases the phenomenon of biographies by and about historians, and also looks across the humanities at current research on life-writing.” The conference will be held at the University of London Senate House, WC1E 7HU. Go here
for online registration.
BIO member Reiss has won wide praise for his latest book.
Book Critics Award Finalists
The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for its annual award, and the Biography category is dominated by titles that should be quite familiar to BIO members:
- Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
- Lisa Cohen, All We Know: Three Lives
- Lisa Jarnot, Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography
- Tom Reiss, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo.
The awards ceremony will be held on February 28 at 6 p.m. at the New School, 66 W. 12th Street, New York. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
Jewish Book Council
A look at the life of novelist Howard Fast was among the books taking top honors for the Jewish Book Council’s 2012 National Jewish Book Awards. Gerald Sorin’s Howard Fast: Life and Literature in the Left Lane won the Krauss Family Award, which goes to the best book in the Biography, Autobiography and Memoir category. A finalist in that category was Menachem Begin: A Life, by Avi Shilon, translated by Danielle Zilberberg and Yoram Sharett. Sorin and the other prize winners will receive their honors at the Second Annual National Jewish Book Awards ceremony on Thursday, March 14th, at 8 p.m. at the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York City.
Charles Taylor Prize Shortlist
Several biographies are on the shortlist for the Charles Taylor Prize, given to the best book of literary non-fiction by a Canadian author. They are:
- Carol Bishop-Gwyn, The Pursuit of Perfection: A Life of Celia Franca
- Tim Cook, Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King, and Canada’s World Wars
- Sandra Djwa, Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page
- Ross King, Leonardo and the Last Supper.
News and Notes
Mickelson’s parents were among the first residents of Young’s “City Beautiful,” Hollywood, Florida.
’s new book on Joseph W. Young, listed in this month’s In Stores section, is the product of five years of research on the builder who, during the 1920s, helped make Florida a popular destination for sun seekers. Chip Bishop
recently had the chance to promote his dual biography, The Lion and the Journalist: The Unlikely Friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and Joseph Bucklin Bishop
on Oline Eaton
’s New Books in Biography podcast. You can hear the interview here
has decided Carl Rollyson
must be “the Hardest Working Man in the Biography Biz,” with his steady stream of book reviews and appearances to promote his work, not to mention his prolific production of biographies. In recent weeks, the video for his American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath
was featured by Shelf Awareness as its Book Trailer of the Day
. That website was also one of several media outlets to give the Plath book favorable reviews. And Booklist Onlineinterviewed Rollyson
about “the call to biography.” YA biographerMarfé Ferguson Delano
published a biography of George Washington and his slaves (also featured in this issue). Unlike some biographers, Marfé is fortunate enough to live close enough to bike to one of her major research sites for the book, Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.Andrew Lownie
has released his annual poll of what editors will be looking for in the coming year. The results are broken down into several categories; one features U.S. editors of both fiction and non-fiction
, while another gives the preferences of UK non-fiction editors
. The results show that biographies pique editors’ interests on both sides of the pond. Will Swift
spoke recently on the facts versus the fiction in the recent film Hyde Park on Hudson
, featuring Bill Murray as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Not surprisingly, Swift—the author of The Roosevelts and the Royals
—found that “the movie twisted historical facts throughout the plot.” A longer write-up of the talk can be found here
. Former BIO president Nigel Hamilton
is just one of the contributors to a new scholarly work, Theoretical Discussions of Biography: Approaches from History, Microhistory, and Life Writing. Hans Renders
of the Biography Institute at the University of Groningen also has several essays featured in the book, which TBC
hopes to review this spring. At the annual American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference, set for the weekend of April 27, Beverly Gray
will moderate a panel called “Today’s Top Biographers on Taking Private Lives Public.” The panelists will include D. T. Max
and Dona Munker
. You can visit the ASJA conference website here
. BIO veepBrian Jay Jones
reported his surprise in finding out that pre-orders are already being taken on Amazon for his biography of Jim Henson. The book will be available in September.
The Writer’s Life
Indie Bookstores Thrive
At least that was the conclusion of the New York Times, after surveying independents across the country at the tail end of the 2012 holiday shopping season. While there was no one must-have book, as Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs appeared to be in 2011, storeowners generally reported that sales were up over that year’s holiday selling season. And Shelf Awareness reported that all of 2012 was good for the indie retailers, with sales up 8 percent over the previous year. Not all the sales were of actual books, as more independent stores are moving into the e-reader market.
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.
Bring Back Hornswoggle!
That could be the battle cry of the Word Warriors, a group at Wayne State University dedicated to reviving the use of archaic or often-ignored words. Each year, the warriors present a list of words to promote for the coming year. On the resurrection list for 2013 arebuncombe, chelonian, and perslifage, among several others. The group accepts nominations for the list.
I’m an introvert who also drinks. Isn’t that the definition of most awkward writers?
Writers Turn to Kickstarter to Finance New Books
Kickstarter, the online “funding platform for creative projects,” gave a year-end review of how authors fared in getting the funding they wanted to publish new books. Publishing projects raised more than $15 million in 2012, but because of Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing structure (if you don’t meet your declared goal, you don’t get a cent), only about 30 percent of those projects were funded, for a total of 1,666. Some biographies that made the cut included works on poet Larry Eigner and surfing legend Dewey Weber.
Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation.’ You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle.’
Ralph G. Martin
Ralph G. Martin, who achieved great popular success documenting the lives of some of the 20th century’s most famous people, died on January 9 in Sleepy Hollow, New York. He was 92.
Martin began his career as a journalist and spent some time in politics, working for Adlai Stevenson’s two failed presidential campaigns. He first won fame as a biographer with Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill. The first volume appeared in 1969 and spent weeks on best-seller lists, as did the second volume. Martin’s other popular works included books about King Edward VIII and Wallis Warfield Simpson; John F. Kennedy; and Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Martin also wrote biographies of Golda Meir and Henry and Clare Luce Booth.
Evan S. Connell
Evan S. Connell, writer of a definitive account of General George Custer and the Battle of Little Bighorn, died January 10 in Santa Fe. He was 88.
During his long writing career, Connell wrote both fiction and non-fiction; of the former, his best-known works include Mrs. Bridges andMr. Bridges, two books published a decade apart that chronicle the marriage of the title characters. But for history buffs, Connell’s Son of the Morning Star was perhaps his greatest achievement. He spent four years working on the book, which looks at Custer the man as well as the battle that defined his legacy. Connell later served as an advisor for a TV mini-series based on the work. Martin also wrote Francisco Goya: A Life, along with essays and short stories.
Mary Jane Phillips-Matz
Mary Jane Phillips-Matz, a self-professed opera groupie and the biographer of several composers and singers, died January 19 in Manhattan. She was 86.
Although educated in medieval literature, Phillips-Matz turned her love of opera into a career, writing articles for Opera News and program notes for London’s Royal Opera House. In 1955, she published a book of capsule biographies, Opera Stars in the Sun: Intimate Glimpses of Metropolitan Personalities. She turned to long-form biography in 1993, writing about Guiseppe Verdi. Her Verdi: A Biography won a strong review from the New York Times, which called it an important work. Almost two decades before, Phillips-Matz had helped found the American Institute for Verdi Studies, which today has a large collection of material on the composer available on microfilm, including thousands of letters. Phillips-Matz later wrote Rosa Ponselle: American Diva, and a work about baritone Leonard Warren. Her last biography, published in 2002, was a life of Giacomo Puccini.
Unfortunately, the biography boom has also proven the occasion of some very mean hackwork. People familiar with the facts who cannot write, and people unfamiliar with the facts who can, sign on with major publishers every day. The rise of the authorized or official biography—in which the subject or the subject’s estate cooperate, and I suspect in some cases even collaborate, with the writer producing the book—has seen a parallel phenomenon emerge: the unauthorized life. This is something like the shabby adjunct instructor to the authorized biography’s professor emeritus: it achieves what it can with what it’s got, and considering the low pay, sometimes does a damn sight better than anyone would have expected. [More
“The Adulatory Biographer: On Richard Bradford’sMartin Amis”
From the Editor
The one-year anniversary of my taking over as editor of TBC is approaching fairly quickly, and as I’ve told many people, putting out each issue is the most fun I’ve had as a writer in ages. I’m gratified by the positive comments I’ve gotten from members, and thankful for the general lack of brickbats. I’ve tried to introduce new elements that are useful and at times entertaining, while keeping the best of my predecessor’s regular features. (And speaking of our esteemed president, be sure to check out his always eagerly awaited preview of spring titles.)
Starting this month, we’re introducing a new item, at Mr. Morris’s suggestion: a down-and-dirty interview with members. The five questions will be the same for each interviewee and will give members a chance to see what others are up to. If you’d like to be interviewed for a future issue, please drop me a line
In the months ahead, we hope to find a way to better integrateTBC
features with the BIO website. You saw an example last month, when we offered an excerpt of Will Swift’s interview with 2013 BIO Award winner Ron Chernow, with a link to the full interview
on the Web. Look for that to continue in the future, so more information on a certain topic is available without making each issue too long. We’re also looking to add a searchable index of archived issues of TBC
Speaking of our 2013 BIO Award winner, just a brief word on the rapidly approaching 2013 Complete Biographer Conference, which I’m looking forward to for many reasons. Attending the workshops and other events is key, of course, but so is having the chance to socialize with other members and perhaps get more feedback on how to improve TBC. (Here’s hoping no one is keeping a real brickbat at the ready to deliver in person.) In next month’s TBC, we’ll be profiling a young biographer who attended last year’s conference and was greatly inspired by it. I think it’s safe to say this year’s will offer the same motivation to everyone who attends.
Sold to Publishers
Listed here are book proposals that have recently sold to publishing houses. The information is obtained from Publishers Marketplace
and other sources.
Soldier of Misfortune: The Controversial Execution and Strange Afterlife of Private Eddie Slovik, the Last American Shot for Desertion
sold to Da Capo Press
by Jim Donovan of Jim Donovan Literary
American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague—the Civil War’s Belle of the North, Rival of Mary Lincoln, and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal
sold to Da Capo Press
by Jim Donovan of Jim Donovan Literary
William C. Davis
Grant and Lee: The War They Fought, the Peace They Forged
sold to Da Capo Press
by Jim Donovan of Jim Donovan Literary
Untitled biography of Rasputin
sold to Farrar, Straus and Giroux
by Melissa Chinchillo at Fletcher & Company
David Shields and Shane Salerno
The Private World of J.D. Salinger
sold to Simon & Schuster
Half-Lives: The Lost Genius of 20th Century Science
sold to Oneworld
by Patrick Walsh at Conville & Walsh
Michael Sallah and
The Comandante: A True Story of Love and War
sold to Lyons Press
by Scott Miller at Trident Media Group
A. Scott Berg
sold to Putnam
Noah Charney and
The Invention of Art
sold to Norton
by Eleanor Jackson at Markson Thoma
John A. Farrell
Nixon: An American Tragedy
sold to Doubleday
by David Black at David Black Literary Agency
Emily Bronte’s Dog
sold to Norton
by Renee Zuckerbrot at the Renee Zuckerbrot Literary Agency
(John Humphrey Noyes)
sold to Picador
by Rob McQuilkin at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin
Race to the Top of the World: Richard Byrd, the North Pole… and Beyond
sold to Regnery History
by Julia Lord at Julia Lord Literary Management
David Fiske, Clifford Brown, and Rachel Seligman
Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years
sold to Praeger
Lincoln on the Verge
sold to Simon & Schuster
by Tina Bennett at William Morris Endeavor
The Ice That Started a Fire
sold to Lyons Press
by Elizabeth Kaplan at Elizabeth Kaplan Agency
David K. Randall
The Queen of Malibu
(Frederick and May Rindge)
sold to Norton
by Larry Weissman at Larry Weissman Literary
The Invention of Nature: How Alexander von Humboldt Revolutionized Our Understanding of the World
sold to Knopf
by Patrick Walsh at Conville & Walsh
Master George’s People: George Washington, His Slaves, and His Revolutionary Transformation
by Marfé Ferguson Delano
Joseph W. Young, Jr. and the City Beautiful:
A Biography of the Founder of Hollywood, Florida
by Joan Mickelson
(McFarland & Company, Inc.)
The Best-Kept Boy in the World: The Life and Loves of Denny Fouts
by Arthur Vanderbilt
Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss
by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill
The Force of Things: A Marriage in War and Peace
by Alexander Stille
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Maverick Genius: The Pioneering Odyssey of Freeman Dyson
by Phillip F. Schewe
(Thomas Dunne Books)
The Last Love of George Sand: A Literary Biography
by Evelyne Bloch-Dano
Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science
by Christoph Irmscher
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted
by Andrew Wilson
Benjamin Britten: A Life in the Twentieth Century
by Paul Kildea
Classic Modern: The Art Worlds of Joseph Pulitzer Jr.
by Marjorie B. Cohn
(Harvard Art Museums)
George Liele’s Life and Legacy: An Unsung Hero
by David T. Shannon, Sr. & Julia Frazier White
(Mercer University Press)
The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet
by Lawrence J. Friedman
(Columbia University Press)
Ali: The Official Portrait of “The Greatest” of All Time
by Nancy J. Hajeski
(Baker & Taylor Publishing Group)
Lonesome Melodies: The Lives and Music of the Stanley Brothers
by David W. Johnson
(University Press of Mississippi)
Evel: The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel
by Dwayne Epstein
by Amity Shlaes
Gilbert Stuart and the Impact of Manic Depression
by Dorinda Evans
(Ashgate Publishing Company)
Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt: The Unlikely Hero of the Lusitania
by Steven H. Gittelman and Emily Gittelman
Paul Robeson: A Life of Activism and Art
by Lindsey R. Swindall
(Rowman & Littlefield)
The Ultimate Ponzi: The Scott Rothstein Story
by Chuck Malkus
The Queen’s Agent: Sir Francis Walsingham and the Rise of Espionage in Elizabethan England
by John Cooper
Beating the Odds: The Life and Times of E. A. Milne
by Meg Weston Smith
(Imperial College Press)
Disraeli: The Romance of Politics
by Robert P. O’Kell
(University of Toronto Press)
Young Milton: The Emerging Author, 1620-1642
by Edward Jones
(Oxford University Press)
Carlos Slim: The Richest Man in the World
by José Martinez
Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage
by Jeffrey Frank
(Simon & Schuster)
The Last Outlaws: The Lives and Legends of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
by Thom Hatch
South by Southwest: Katherine Anne Porter and the Burden of Texas History
by Janis P. Stout
(University of Alabama Press)
The Master of Us All: Balenciaga, His Workrooms, His World
by Mary Blume
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Hitler’s Rival: Ernst Thälmann in Myth and Memory
by Russel Lemmons
(University Press of Kentucky)
by David Loades
The Poet: The Life and Los Angeles Times of Jim Murray
by Steven Traver
Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg
by Tom Huntington
Louis Marshall and the Rise of Jewish Ethnicity in America
by Matthew Silver
(Syracuse University Press)
Nikki Giovanni: A Literary Biography
by Virginia C. Fowler
Madison and Jefferson
by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg
(Random House Trade Paperback)
Confederate General Leonidas Polk: Louisiana’s Fighting Bishop
by Cheryl H. White
(The History Press)
The Death and Life of Malcolm X
by Peter Goldman
(University of Illinois Press)
That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
by Anne Sebba
(St. Martin’s Griffin)
This Is a Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl
by Paul Brannigan
(Da Capo Press)
Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan
by William Hjortsberg
Fallen Angel: The Making and Unmaking of Rajat Gupta
by Sandipan Deb
(Rupa & Company)
The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II
by Andrew Marr
(St. Martin’s Griffin)
Darwin: A Graphic Biography
by Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr
Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts
by Stacy A. Cordery
Jung the Mystic: The Esoteric Dimensions of Carl Jung’s Life and Teachings
by Gary Lachman
A Moment with the Vice President
Dear BIO members,
Each year, mystery readers and writers eagerly await the announcement of the annual Edgar Award, presented by the Mystery Writers of America for the best in detective fiction. For science fiction fans, it’s the Nebula Award, while for horror fans it’s the Stoker Award, chosen by horror writers, for horror writers. And for biography, there’s…well, there’s nothing, really—no award for biography, chosen by biographers.
Recently, the BIO Board of Directors unanimously voted to create the Plutarch Award—an annual award to be presented by the world’s only organization of practicing biographers and lovers of biography (that’s all of YOU) for the Best Biography of the Year.
The way it works is simple: BIO is creating a Plutarch Award Committee—made up of BIO Board Members and BIO Members—to put together a formal list of nominees and then tally votes for Best Biography of the Year. The list of nominees will be submitted to all active BIO members. The winner and finalists will be recognized at the BIO conference and feted in the media, and the winner will also get to call their book the recipient of the Plutarch (or Pluto, as I’m already hearing it informally called, our own version of the Emmy or Tony…) for Best Biography of the Year. A beautifully designed medallion also will be made available to the publisher to put on the cover of the winning books.
These first years will be critical for the award, so it’s equally critical we put together a dedicated, hardworking committee. Committee members will need to invite our full membership to submit potential nominations, then put together a list of finalists for the award (which may include additional nominees that may not have been put forward by the full membership). The list of finalists will be submitted to the full membership for a vote, which will then be compiled and counted by the committee. There may be some reading involved if committee members have not read the books being considered for the list of finalists (BIO can secure copies of the books for the committee members for this purpose).
This is BIO’s equivalent of the Oscar—and just as science fiction fans await the Nebula or mystery fans the Edgar each year, so, too, do we envision the Plutarch as a sought-after and eagerly awaited award for biographers and biography readers each year. But we can’t do it without your help.
So, what do you say? Will you help? If you’d like to serve on the committee, send me a message
and we’ll get things started. And even if you don’t have the time to serve on the committee, this spring you’ll still have a chance to make history as we ask you to vote on the finalists for BIO’s first-ever Plutarch Award for the Best Biography of the Year. Keep watching your inbox.
Brian Jay Jones
BIO Vice President
The Biographer’s Craft
James McGrath Morris
Ashok R. Chandran
Sandra Kimberley Hall
Laura L. Hoopes