Mark Childress

Mark Childress Alabama-born writer Mark Childress (1957- ) focuses on writing novels and screenplays that reflect southern culture and experiences. Childress’s works feature the distinctive way of life and traditions of the American Deep South. He is the author of novels, children’s picture books, and articles and reviews. His best known work, Crazy in Alabama, was made into a well-received movie directed by Antonio Banderas.

Born in Monroeville, Monroe County, in 1957 to Roy and Mary Helen Childress, Mark Childress spent his childhood years in various cities in Ohio, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. He completed high school in Clinton, Mississippi, and began college at Louisiana State University but soon transferred to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County. In 1978, Childress graduated from the University of Alabama and worked as a reporter for several newspapers, including the Birmingham News; he also served as the regional editor for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution from 1984 to 1986. Since 1987 Childress has devoted his full attention to writing fiction.

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Childress’s first novel, A World Made of Fire (1984), is set in Alabama and involves the coming of age of young Estelle Bates in rural Alabama in the years before World War I. Written in the southern gothic tradition (which incorporates elements of the grotesque and deals with characters who are in some way damaged and often mentally ill), the novel was praised by writers and reviewers, including Harper Lee and Stephen King. V For Victor (1988), his second novel, also is set in Alabama and reveals the adventures of an imaginative adolescent boy in the midst of war. His third novel, Tender (1990), is a rags-to-riches story about a rock-and-roll star from Mississippi based roughly on the life of Elvis Presley. In Crazy in Alabama (1993), Childress writes about an ambitious woman who flees to Hollywood to escape an unhappy marriage. The book has been published in 11 languages and has won many accolades, including “Notable Book of the Year” from The New York Times. Childress’s fifth novel, Gone for Good (1998), written in part as a magical realist text, portrays the life of a 1970s rock star and his disappearance as he crash lands in a paradisiacal island.

Mark Childress at Alabama Bound In 1999, Childress adapted Crazy in Alabama to a screenplay for Columbia Pictures. The movie won him wide recognition, and it was an official selection to the Venice and San Sebastian film festivals. In One Mississippi (2006), Childress chronicles small-town life in the South as his adolescent hero experiences cultural clashes after his family relocates from Indiana to Minor, Mississippi. One Mississippi was nominated as the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance “Book of the Year” in 2007. Childress’s 2011 novel Georgia Bottoms tells of the exemplary life of its heroine, an Alabama native, and her secret side-business of serving as a callgirl for local civic leaders for survival. In 2015, he collaborated with the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra to adapt the novel as the opera Georgia Bottoms: A Comic Opera of the Modern South.

Childress’s picture story books include Joshua and Bigtooth (1992), Joshua and the Big Bad Blue Crabs (1996), and Henry Bobbity Is Missing and It Is All Billy Bobbity’s Fault (1996).

Childress is the recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Award (1994), the University of Alabama’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the Alabama Library Association’s Writer of the Year (1994), and the Harper Lee Award (2014). He currently resides in Key West, Florida.

Works by Childress

A World Made of Fire (1984)

V For Victor (1988)

Tender (1990)

Joshua and Bigtooth (1992)

Crazy in Alabama (1993)

Joshua and the Big Bad Blue Crabs (1996)

Henry Bobbity Is Missing And It Is All Billy Bobbity’s Fault (1996)

Gone for Good (1998)

One Mississippi (2006)

Georgia Bottoms (2011)

Further Reading

  • Cain, Chelsea. “Girlfriend in a Coma.” Review of One Mississippi by Mark Childress. The NewYork Times, July 23, 2006.
  • Childress, Mark. “A Conversation with Mark Childress.” Interview by Rachel Kartz and Neal Peters. Willowsprings, February 23, 2008.

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