Michael Malone is
a unique American literary voice--"an American original," People
magazine has called him--an author who takes risks as large as those of his
fictional characters. Both a
critical favorite and a popular success, Malone has kept readers and booksellers
clamoring for another novel in the ten
years since his last one was published.
With First Lady, the wait is over.
characters and landscape of First Lady developed more than 15 years ago
in two internationally acclaimed literary mysteries, Uncivil
Seasons (1983) and Time's
In fictional Hillston, North Carolina, aristocratic, romantic detective
Justin B. Savile V and his brilliant, wisecracking friend Cuddy Mangum first
were introduced to readers as partners unearthing dark crimes at the heart
of the New South. These unforgettable heroes were called "two of the most
memorable detectives ever to appear in mystery fiction" by The New York
Times Book Review, and Time's Witness was everywhere called a classic
to be ranked with To Kill a Mockingbird and All the King's Men.
Justin narrated Uncivil Seasons, a story about class barriers and the
weight of the Southern past, his Huck Finn-like friend Cuddy, now promoted to
police chief, took the stage in Time's
Witness, the second Hillston novel.
Here, searing political issues came into play, as Justin and Cuddy fought
the South's ghosts of race and prejudice in a battle against misuse of the death
begins where Time's Witness left off--this time again in Justin's
voice--and includes the memorable characters and plot twists of love, tragedy,
death and humor that are characteristically Malone.
range is immense. (He has also written widely on popular culture, including a
book on film that began as a dissertation at Harvard.) After the critically
acclaimed novels The Delectable
Mountains and Dingley Falls came
another and very different comic masterpiece, 1986s Handling Sin.
Called "phenomenal, a hilarious success," a
"heartwarming tour de force" and an "immense, joyous novel"
by The New York Times, Newsweek and Kirkus Reviews, and
compared to work by Dickens, Cervantes, Twain and even the Marx Brothers, Handling
Sin received rave reviews across the world Malone's novels have been
published in many languages-from Spanish, French and Italian to Swedish and
1991's Foolscap, Malone explored academic politics at a Southern university and the
world of the theater from Broadway to the Grand Ole Opry to Covent
Garden--perhaps drawing upon his own experiences as a student at UNC Chapel Hill
and Harvard, or as a teacher of fiction and drama at Yale, Swarthmore and the
University of Pennsylvania.
all of Malone's novels, the characters leap off the page and into the hearts of
readers as if they were long-lost loved ones, distant relatives from a familiar
place. Besides these strong
characters, there is wonderful comedy, a powerful and compassionate moral vision
and a sharp eye for human foibles--personal, social and political.
Whatever brings people together into community plays a deep role in all
Malone's novels, which is why there is so much music and theater in them.
From the stage setting in Foolscap and
the impromptu jazz combo in Handling Sin to the Elvis Presley poster
behind Cuddy's desk and the Patsy Cline tape in his car, a Malone novel is not
complete without the sound of music playing and someone stepping onto a stage to
writing Foolscap, Malone's career took a dramatic turn when he accepted a
position as head writer for the ABC soap opera One Life
to Live. Needless to say, he
raised a few eyebrows among his academic colleagues.
When Malone won the Emmy in 1984, he commented, "If Dickens were
alive, this is what he'd be doing," a wry challenge to the literary
community and his own scholarly background.
As he said in a 1992 People interview, "Novels were low culture in
the 18th century. Lord knows what
the low culture will be in the future!"
after he has left his post in soap opera, fans of the characters he created and
the storylines he introduced are still mad for Malone. (Malone brought the AIDS
quilt to One Life to Live and introduced many other controversial social
issues as well as daring and unforgettable characters.) Today Malone still
answers questions about both his television work and his novels on a website
created and maintained by his fans. This
website, called "Magnificently Malonian," is a devoted product of the
legacy he left during his tenure at One Life
to Live and gives proof to Malone's belief that many daytime soap watchers
are also ardent readers of literature.
Malone thoroughly enjoyed his years in television, especially at One Life to Live (and was famously successful, raising the show from No.
11 to No. 4 in ratings and winning the Writers Guild Award in 1993 and the Emmy
in 1994), he felt called back to writing fiction between covers.
His short story Red Clay was awarded the Edgar in 1997 and now appears in Best
Mystery Stories of the Century. He
has also won the O. Henry Award, and his novels have appeared in many best book
of the year lists. His work has been published in such magazines as Harper's,
Playboy, Mademoiselle and Psychology
Today, and he has
contributed as a critic to The New York
Times Book Review, The Nation,
Newsday, The Washington Post
Book World, The Atlanta
Constitution and The Philadelphia Inquirer,
among many others.
widespread appeal--to lovers of literary fiction, critics, television serial
fans and mystery readers--establishes him as one of the most intriguing
novelists writing today. He lives
in Hillsborough in his native North Carolina with his wife Maureen Quilligan,
chair of the Duke University English Department. His new collection of
prize-winning short stories Red Clay Blue Cadillac
will appear in Spring 2002.
Please contact Jim Bowers if you are interested in reading a bit of his work, or wish to share such materials with your classes.