Thomas Francis McGuane III is a twentieth century American novelist whose novels have received favorable attention from scholars as well as the reading public. The son of Thomas Francis and Alice Torphy McGuane, McGuane exhibited his inclination toward writing at age ten by collaborating with a friend on a novel that was never finished. His other youthful passion, which he still pursues, was sportfishing, an activity that he features in most of his novels. The close relationship between McGuane and his father disintegrated as the elder McGuane immersed himself in both work and alcohol. This father-son relationship became a consistent theme in McGuane’s fiction.
McGuane attended and graduated from Cranbrook, an exclusive Michigan boarding school. His college career was not a calm period in his life: He was dismissed from the University of Michigan for not passing his classes; he briefly attended Olivet College, finally receiving a degree (with honors) from Michigan State University. After college, McGuane considered becoming a Navy pilot but enrolled in Yale Drama School instead. In 1965, he received his master of fine arts from Yale, and, after a year in Spain and Italy, he spent the 1966-1967 academic year at Stanford University on a Wallace Stegner Fellowship. McGuane has not wished to teach; instead he has balanced writing novels with writing screenplays, sportfishing in the Florida Keys, raising cutting horses in Montana, and competing in rodeos.
McGuane’s novels strongly reflect his experiences and interests. When he was a boy, his family spent the summers at a fishing camp in Northern Michigan similar to the setting of his first novel, The Sporting Club. Later, the McGuane family summered in Venice, Florida, where he spent many hours sportfishing, the principal activity in Ninety-two in the Shade. At age sixteen, while a student at Cranbrook, McGuane ran away to a Wyoming ranch owned by the father of a girlfriend. He returned avowedly antisocial, using this incident in his second novel, The Bushwhacked Piano. In addition to having these specific events to use in his writing, McGuane was further inspired by being surrounded with the “heavy duty Irish wit” of a family of “fantastic storytellers.”
The reading public did not respond to McGuane’s early novels as enthusiastically as the critics did. In order to support his family, he turned to screenwriting and directing, work that put him in the middle of the Hollywood scene for several years. After a serious auto accident in 1972 outside Dalhart, Texas, he immersed himself in an excessive lifestyle, including bouts with drugs and alcohol, that earned him the nickname “Captain Berserko” through...
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