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Erskine Caldwell (Erskine Preston Caldwell) Biography

(1903–87), (Erskine Preston Caldwell), Tobacco Road, God's Little Acre, Journeyman, Trouble in July

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American novelist, born in White Oak, Georgia, the son of a Presbyterian minister, educated at the University of Virginia. His first major success was Tobacco Road (1932), dramatized by Jack Kirkland, about the Lesters, poor white farmers struggling to eke out an existence in the Deep South. This was followed by God's Little Acre (1933), a tale of sexual jealousy and intrigue in the Walden family in Georgia. Both novels are characterized by a heady mixture of social outrage and bawdy humour combined with an incisive sense of the qualities of folk culture. Regional life, and racial and social relations in the Deep South, characterize much of his fiction, such as Journeyman (1935), a sensational novel attempting to uncover certain religious exoticisms in the South; Trouble in July (1940); Tragic Ground (1944); House in the Uplands (1946); The Sure Hand of God (1947); This Very Earth (1948); A Place Called Estherville (1949); A Lamp for Nightfall (1952), set in Maine and dealing with old customs threatened by outlanders; Gretta (1955), the depiction of a nymphomaniac; Jenny By Nature (1961); Summertime Island (1968), a didactic romance narrated by a 16-year-old boy who comes of age on a fishing holiday; The Weather Shelter (1969); and Annette (1973). He has also written several collections of short stories, considered by many critics to include his finest writing: We Are the Living (1933); Kneel to the Rising Sun (1935); Southways (1938); Jackpot (1940); American Earth (1941); Georgia Boy (1943); The Courting of Susie Brown (1952); Gulf Coast Stories (1956); and When You Think of Me (1959). Despite his enormous productivity and popularity, his work has been less well received by critics after their initial enthusiasm in the 1930s. As well as fiction, he produced a number of short documentary and non-fictional works such as Some American People (1935), portraits of American life; All Out on the Road to Smolensk (1942), reminiscences about his war experiences; an autobiography in Call It Experience (1951); Around About America (1964), about travels around the USA; and Afternoons in Mid-America (1976). He collaborated with the photographer Margaret Bourke-White on You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), a photo-documentary on Southern sharecroppers during the Depression, North of the Danube (1939) about Czechoslovakia, and Say! Is This the USA? (1941).

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