This book contains 575 factually accurate informational sketches of the life and writings of contemporary American novelists. Every effort has been made to include accounts of those writers who have published two or more serious novels, one of them in the last ten years, and who in 1951 were at work upon a long piece of fiction. A few authors of distinguished first novels have been included. The object has been to give as complete a record as possible of the decade of the 1940's. Because of the difficulty of obtaining information about the writers who pseudonymously compose mystery, detective, and "western" fiction, all authors whose work has been entirely in these fields have been omitted.
Although there is some literary criticism in this volume, the main purpose has not been to criticize the artistic aims or to evaluate the literary merits of these writers. Rather, this survey is designed to present factual information for the benefit of readers who wish a guide through this extensive body of imaginative prose writing. No one reader can pass judgment satisfactorily upon so many books or upon so many authors within the time available for the compilation of an up-to-date reference work.
Each sketch is authoritative, for it has been reviewed either by the person whom it discusses or by a person whose knowledge of the life and work of the novelist gives authenticity to the statement. Many authors have kindly supplied information on their aims or philosophy, and most of these views are presented as direct quotations. No other book has ever included as equally complete a representation of the work of living American novelists.
The plan of each sketch is this: first, there is a brief biography; second, the works other than fiction are listed and sometimes briefly annotated; third, the author's leading theme, purpose, intention, style, aesthetic principle, or philosophy is stated; and, finally, a brief description of each novel is given. In a few instances there are statements about representative novels, but, in general, every novel by an author has been summarized by its theme or by its main narrative movement.
The length of each sketch has been determined by the amount of pertinent biographical data available and by the number of published novels. Length is not to be construed as a measure of aesthetic or popular success nor as a measure of a writer's final position as a contributor to the history of the American novel.
Novelists have been chosen for representation in this book because of the wide popular appeal of this form of writing. No other type of literature entertains as many readers, short stories in magazines excepted. Book sales, both in original and reprint editions, and library borrowing indicate that millions of copies of novels are read annually by an ever- increasing audience. A novel is more than a work of entertainment, however; the novel is a primary social record, a direct impression of life recorded by a sensitive and often poetically gifted writer. From these novels it is possible to construct a picture of contemporaneous American life in almost all its geo-