Madison Smartt Bell

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Child of Light

book | Non-Fiction | Mar 2020
US & Canada → Doubleday (Ed. Gerry Howard)

"The late Robert Stone always signed his missives, ‘A blessing,’ and that is what this book by the great Madison Smartt Bell is — a much-needed and lovingly assembled account of the life of Robert Stone, who remains a gifted visionary and a hero to so many, myself included." — Rachel Kushner

"Child of Light   is as much a page-turner as the best suspense novel, and that’s entirely as it should be...Madison Smartt Bell’s excellent biography captures the essence of this iconoclastic genius, and deftly illuminates Stone’s writing...with Child of Light  we have a biography that’s every bit the equal of its subject.” — Ben Fountain

The first and definitive biography of one of the great American novelists of the postwar era, the author of Dog Soldiers and A Flag for Sunrise, and a penetrating critic of American power, innocence, and corruption.

Robert Stone (1937-2015), probably the only postwar American writer to draw favorable comparisons to Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, and Joseph Conrad, lived a life rich in adventure, achievement, and inner turmoil. He grew up rough on the streets of New York, the son of a mentally troubled single mother. After his Navy service in the fifties, which brought him to such locales as pre-Castro Havana, the Suez Crisis, and Antarctica, he studied writing at Stanford, where he met Ken Kesey and became a core member of the gang of Merry Pranksters. The publication of his superb New Orleans novel, Hall of Mirrors (1967), initiated a succession of dark-humored novels that investigated the American experience in Vietnam (Dog Soldiers, 1974, which won the National Book Award), Central America (A Flag for Sunrise, 1981), and Jerusalem on the eve of the millennium (Damascus Gate, 1998).

An acclaimed novelist himself, Madison Smartt Bell was a close friend and longtime admirer of Robert Stone. His authorized and deeply researched biography is both intimate and objective, a rich and unsparing portrait of a complicated, charismatic, and haunted man and a sympathetic reading of his work that will help to secure Stone’s place in the pantheon of major American writers.


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Sophie Baker manages the translation rights for Child of Light


This is one of those rare biographies in which you don’t feel like skimming the first 35 pages.

Dwight Garner
The New York Times

Bell is an accomplished novelist in his own right, and Child of Light, like a good work of fiction, lives through its details.

Anthony Domestico

Jane Gelfman

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Jonny Geller
+44 (0)20 7393 4357
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Translation Rights
Sophie Baker
+44 (0)20 7393 4425
Email Sophie Baker