Charles J. Shields is the author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, a New York Times bestseller, a Literary Guild Selection, and a Book-of-the-Month Club Alternate. His young adult biography of Harper Lee, I Am Scout, 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 2011, Shields published And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life, a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of the Year.
Shields accomplishes an admirable feat of objectivity in a biography published during our riven age of identity and tribal politics. * American Book Review * Shields describes Williams's development and motivations and explains persuasively why a writer hungry for fame didn't go in for the postmodernist experiments of his time. * New Criterion * Shields' writing is captivating and reveals much about the wounded psyches of the GI Bill generation of American (male) authors. * Shepherd Express * Brief but compelling...The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel is a welcome reminder that even in the rarefied world of literature, good sometimes prevails. * Waterbury Republican-American * Through exhaustive research and sharp prose, Shields has composed a portrait of the complicated author and the particular darknesses that drove Williams to write, to overcompensate, to philander, to mansplain. * The Millions * [A] sharp-eyed biography. * Booklist * [An] exemplary biography, the first devoted to the life of one of America's most unusual writers. * Financial Times * Charles Shields has done us all a service by pointing up and pointing out the novelist's unyielding ambition and rigor. * New York Journal of Books * Despite obvious parallels with his fictional university protagonist, John Williams is both different and interesting enough to merit a book of his own, Charles J. Shields's The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel. It certainly helps that, like Williams, Shields know how to tell a good story, one that will appeal especially to those interested in the ins and outs of the publishing industry and the ups and downs of a writer's life. * Los Angeles Review of Books * The Williams that emerges is not unlike Stoner himself: self-obsessed, given to petty feuds, and insecure about his abilities...It is to Shields's credit that by the end of this finely crafted biography readers will feel they have some insight into this talented, troubled enigma of a man. * Publisher's Weekly * This rich biography gives new insight into the enigmatic man behind Stoner, a novel quickly forgotten after its 1963 publication but more recently recognized as a midcentury American classic. * Publishers Weekly, selected among The Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018 * [An] engrossing short biography. * The New Yorker *