Elizabeth Spencer Biography
(1921– ), Fire in the Morning, This Crooked Way, The Voice at the Back Door
American short-story writer and novelist, born in Carrollton, Mississippi, educated at Vanderbilt University. Her early novels, Fire in the Morning (1948) and This Crooked Way (1952), explored Southern themes from perspectives ignored by her contemporaries; The Voice at the Back Door (1956), detailing an unscrupulous lawyer's conflict with a rough but highly principled athlete, was an honest examination of the racial question. Spencer's move to Italy introduced a new landscape to her fiction. The highly successful novella The Light in the Piazza (1960) was the first of her fictions to explore the sensibilities of expatriates, usually women, in search of themselves in a Europe always fascinating but often indifferent to them, and elicited comparisons with the work of Henry James. Knights and Dragons (1965), the interior monologue of a divorcee, juxtaposes images of Rome with lyrical meditations on the nature of love and loss. Her other novels include The Snare (1972), set in New Orleans, and the unusually compelling The Salt Line (1984), which returns to the Mississippi locations of her early fictions. Spencer's short stories also display her fascination with place, ranging from the American South and Europe to Canada; collections include The Stories of Elizabeth Spencer (1981) and Jack of Diamonds (1988).