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Charles Portis Books In Order

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Escape Velocity (2012)Description / Buy at Amazon

Charles Portis is an American author that writes western fiction. Portis wrote ‘True Grit’, the book from which the 2010 movie of the same name was adapted


Charles Portis was born in 1933 in El Dorado, Arkansas. His parents were Samuel Palmer and Alice Waddell Portis. The author’s studies took him all over Southern Arkansas. The many towns he visited on what some might to refer to as Portis’ educational tour saw him interact with a diverse collection of individuals.

Portis has always been the active type. So he was always outdoors swimming with friends or seeking out adventure. Portis had a thing for comics at the time and they provided him several hours-worth of escape.

His love of comics was only exceeded by his passion for films, with Portis making frequent visits to his favorite cinema in El Dorado to watch Westerns. The author’s home life did not necessarily encourage his reading habit.

Portis’ family did not necessarily hate books. But they preferred to talk rather than read or even write. Whenever his father and brothers came together, the house would erupt with laughter and howling, and a whole host of cigar smoking.

Though, life was not always fun and games. Like many young men his age living in uncertain times, Charles Portis went into the army. The Korean War came along and Portis did his duty. Upon returning to the United States, the author saw fit to join the University of Arkansas to study journalism.

By 1958, he was a full-fledged reporter, though the first few months of his career were hardly inspiring. Portis spent a lot of time tracking police activity in the dead of night and covering local festivals. Every once in a while a murder would come Portis’ way.

But the author never felt like he was making effective use of his abilities, and that was a problem because Portis has always had a short attention span. Things changed when the 1960s brought with them the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement.

Portis went to the south for a while. Over the next couple of years, opportunities came for Charles Portis to work for publications like the Herald-Tribune. He even migrated to London at one point, assigned the position of Herald Tribune Bureau Chief.

London injected some excitement into Portis’ life but the author eventually grew tired of the business of reporting. In 1964 Portis returned to Arkansas and set his sights on producing fiction. Being a full-time writer would have intimidated most people but it only took Portis two years to publish ‘Norwood’, his first novel.

The book followed the exploits of a young, naïve ex-Marine who is persuaded to transport some valuable cargo to New York City. The young man encounters many an obstacle along the way, with Charles Portis using his journey to make humorous observations about the United States, its people and their culture.

The book was such a big hit that it received a movie adaptation that starred Glen Campbell and Kim Darby 1970.

Taking advantage of the momentum ‘Norwood’ had given his burgeoning writing career, Portis wrote and published ‘True Grit’ in 1968. Like its predecessor, the Western was a pretty big hit, following the exploits of a shrewd 14-year-old girl who recruits a Deputy Marshal to her cause of hunting down and bringing to justice the man that killed her father.

True Grit was praised for its sharp dialogue and attention to detail, and like Norwood, it received a film adaptation, first in 1969, and then a remake in 2010.

Charles Portis has only ever produced a handful of full-length novels, with each one leaving the publishing industry awed by the author’s strong narrative voice and distinctly satirical approach to storytelling.

Besides novels, Portis has written short stories, though none of them ever stood out.

Despite his successful career in journalism and the hullabaloo that surrounded his Westerns in the 70s and 80s, Portis chose to become a recluse after the release of his 1991 novel ‘Gringos’. He withdrew so effectively from the public eye that by the time the 2010 live action movie adaptation of his novel ‘True Grit’ came out and elicited the praise of both audiences and critics, few moviegoers associated that adaptation with Portis’ original novel.

For fans of Westerns, Portis has always been held in high regard, and his diminished presence in popular culture has done little to debilitate his legend.

+True Grit

The 1870s find Mattie Ross preparing to undertake a quest for vengeance. Because she’s fourteen, Mattie knows her task will be that much more difficult. But she isn’t afraid of the dangers that wait ahead.

Her target, a former handyman, gunned Mattie’s beloved father down. Upon learning of the murder, Mattie is smart enough to know that she needs help to bring her target down. As such, she elicits the assistance of Marshal Rooster, one of very few men willing to pursue a despicable outlaw into Indian Territory.

True Grit is often praised as one of the greatest westerns ever written. Mattie Ross is mentioned alongside the likes of Huckleberry Finn as one of the greatest child characters in fiction. Her story begins when Tom Chaney killers her father, steals his horse and cash and flees.

In a world full of hardened men, Mattie uses her wit and pluck and the company of a fearless marshal to do the impossible.

+The Dog of the South

Ray Midge is an unfortunate man. His wife Norma left him, running off with Guy Dupree. Dupree so happens to be Norma’s ex-husband. They had the audacity to make their great escape in Ray’s own Ford Torino.

But Ray isn’t done with the pair of them. Using credit card receipts to identify their destination Ray goes after them, determined to get his car and possibly even his wife back. The redneck is joined on his quest by Doctor Symes, a criminal that is looking to talk his missionary mother into helping him build luxury nursing homes.

The story is told from Ray’s perspective. Ray is a hick. He knows everything there is to know about cars and guns, and little else. As such, the world he encounters on his journey to locate his car and wife is a perplexing wonder to him.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Charles Portis

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