Books by Michael Shelden

MELVILLE IN LOVE by Michael Shelden
Released: June 7, 2016

"Shelden bases his conclusions on correspondence and archival research but often conjectures about what 'must have' occurred. Nonetheless, he offers a provocative portrait of the canonical writer and his world."
How a secret love affair inflamed Herman Melville's fiction. Read full book review >
YOUNG TITAN by Michael Shelden
Released: March 5, 2013

"Indeed, there are plenty of books about Churchill, period. Shelden isn't of the first rank, but the book holds up well against the competition."
Solid biography covering the first four decades of Winston Churchill's life, marked by both ambition and heartbreak. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 26, 2010

"Too little light shed on Twain's work and legacy."
A portrait of Mark Twain's final years offers some revisionist history but overloads a potentially compelling narrative with anecdotal minutiae. Read full book review >
GRAHAM GREENE by Michael Shelden
Released: June 1, 1995

Trying to hunt down the controversial, complex Greene (190491) as the Harry Lime of the literary racket, Shelden (Orwell, 1991, etc.) succeeds less in decoding the deceptions of Greene's life than in creating a trail of false leads. In contrast to the meticulous Norman Sherry's multi-volume authorized biography (The Life of Graham Greene: Vol. II, 1995, etc.), Shelden not only braves the protective Greene estate, but also rummages for unreliable rumors and sloppily sourced gossip. Greene's penchant for prostitutes, his friendship with double agent Kim Philby, his provocative loose-cannon politics, and his heterodox (rather antinomian) Catholicism all entangled his enigmatic life; but Shelden adds unsupported claims of homosexuality and pedophilia, opportunistic political posturing, and religious hypocrisy to make Greene as villainous a character as any in his novels. Shelden uses such unreliable witnesses as a Jamaican maid, a Capri postal worker, and the batty model for Aunt Augusta of Travels with My Aunt, and his own cases for an adolescent botched suicide attempt by hanging and an affair with a fellow Oxford man have scarcely more credibility. Given Greene's highly dubious character, some of Shelden's barbs hook flesh, from habitual spitefulness and petty deceptions—such as the publication of the ``lost novel'' The Tenth Man—to more serious sins. Shelden uncovers an early anti-Semitic streak, which surfaced in Greene's 1930s movie reviews of the ``tasteless Semitic opulence'' of producer Alexander Korda. In his last years, Greene conducted all-expenses-paid political liaisons with Panamanian dictators General Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega, and the Sandinistas— which led to his puff personality piece Getting to Know the General, especially disappointing in comparison with his famously penetrating earlier tours of Mexico and Vietnam. Despite Shelden's relentless animus for Greene as a person and a writer, this propaganda campaign can neither surpass nor subvert the Greene legend. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
ORWELL by Michael Shelden
Released: Nov. 1, 1991

Believing that Bernard Crick's authorized biography, George Orwell (1981), neglected the writer's inner life, Shelden (Friends of Promise, 1989) set out to discover the secret life that would help to elucidate Animal Farm and 1984. What he offers here is a biography of an eccentric, decent, sickly man, intensely private and self-deprecating, who believed that his life had nothing to do with his writing or that his life was his writing. Orwell (1903-50), born Eric Blair, educated at Eton, spent five years in Burma before becoming a ``tramp,'' an experience he described in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933). He worked as a tutor, a bookshop clerk, a grocer, a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, and a BBC commentator and journalist, but mostly as a writer who turned out reams of personal and literary essays and, to avoid libel, disguised his political commentary in fiction such as Animal Farm. Prematurely aged from the London Blitz, repeated bouts with TB, and the loss of his wife, he moved to the isolated Scottish island of Jura with his sister and his adopted infant son; there, he completed 1984. Orwell died in a London hospital three months after a bedside marriage to his second wife, ending a life spent mostly away from the high-living, hard-drinking writers of his generation: ``I cannot honestly say that I have done anything except write books and raise hens and vegetables,'' he wrote, taking ``pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information.'' Despite his aim, then, Shelden may have proved that Orwell had no secret life, that the only pitiful thing about him was his failure to inspire love in women, that the only scandalous one was his collection of crudely captioned seaside postcards depicting voluptuous women—an expression of what Orwell called the ``unofficial self'' everyone has. Occasional glimpses of that unofficial self are, disappointingly, all that Shelden offers. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >