Madden was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on July 25, 1933. He is the second of four children, all boys; the fourth died as an infant. His father was a pattern cutter for a sporting goods manufacturer; after divorce, his mother had many jobs, in department stores and restaurants.
Madden entered the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1951-52 and was an Education major, minoring in history and speech. From 1952 to 1953, he sailed as mess-man and wiper in the Merchant Marine coastwise on Seatrains, to Dutch West Indies, Chile, Panama, Hawaii, and Galveston, where he began his first novel, published as his second, Cassandra Singing. In 1953, he volunteered for the draft and served in the Army, spending his last year in Alaska, where he wrote his first published story, “Hurry Up, Please, It’s Time.” Released early to attend college, he met Roberta Young, at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls in 1956, and they were married that year and returned to Knoxville to finish his B.S. Madden received his Master of Creative Arts at San Francisco State Teachers College in 1958, and in that year at Appalachian State Teachers College in Boone, North Carolina, he began his long teaching career. After a year at Yale Drama School studying with John Gassner on a John Golden Fellowship, he accepted a position at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, followed by other teaching positions at the University of Louisville, Kenyon College, and Ohio University. Writer-in-residence at LSU from 1968 to 1992, Director of the Creative Writing Program 1992-1994, Founding Director of the United States Civil War Center 1992-1999, he is now LSU Robert Penn Warren Professor of Creative Writing, Emeritus.
In l961, Random House published his first novel, The Beautiful Greed, based on his Merchant seaman experiences. For Warner Brothers, he adapted his second novel, Cassandra Singing, to the screen (not yet produced). The Shadow Knows, a book of stories, won a National Council on the Arts Award, judged by Hortense Calisher and Walker Percy. His second collection, The New Orleans of Possibilities, appeared in 1982. His stories have been reprinted in numerous college textbooks and twice in Best American Short Stories. A Rockefeller Grant, recommended by Robert Penn Warren and Saul Bellow, enabled him to work in Venice and Yugoslavia on his third novel, Bijou, a 1974 Book of the Month Club Alternate Selection.
His best-known novel, The Suicide’s Wife, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and made into a CBS movie. Pleasure-Dome, On the Big Wind, and Sharpshooter: A Novel of the Civil War are his most recent novels. Abducted By Circumstance appeared in 2010. In 2010, he finished the third novel in a trilogy called London Bridge in Plague and Fire.
His poems (collected in Venice Is Sinking, unpublished) and short stories have appeared in a wide variety of publications, from Redbook and Playboy to The Southern Review and Botteghe Oscure. His plays have won many state and national contests; several have been published, including Fugitive Masks, about a commedia del Arte troupe.
Among his works of literary criticism are: Wright Morris, A Primer of the Novel [major revision published in 2006], Harlequin’s Stick, Charlie’s Cane, James M. Cain, Revising Fiction, and two collections of his literary essays, The Poetic Image in Six Genres and Touching the Web of Southern Novelists (summer 2006). In 2010, he finished preparing his third book of essays The Tangled Web of the Civil War.
He has published essays on Albert Camus, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, Katherine Mansfield, Michel Tournier, William Gaddis, Jules Romains, Emily Bronte, Edward Albee, Graham Greene, Richard Wilbur, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers, Joseph Conrad, Eugene O’Neill, Ross Macdonald, Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Wolfe, James Dickey, Ingmar Bergman, and Ikira Kurasawa. Best-known of the many books of original critical essays he has edited are Tough Guy Writers of the Thirties, Proletarian Writers of the Thirties, American Dreams, American Nightmares, Remembering James Agee (revised with Jeffery Folks, 1997, Nathaniel West: The Cheaters and the Cheated, Rediscoveries [I and II], Classics of Civil War Fiction, Thomas Wolfe’s Civil War, and Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of the Survivors. In preparation are Wright Morris Territory: A Reader and Absalom, Absalom (essays).
He has also edited several innovative textbooks: The Poplar Culture Explosion, Creative Choices, The World of Fiction, A Pocketful of Prose, eight other titles in the Pocketful series from Harcourt Brace, and Studies in the Short Story. He is a former assistant editor of The Kenyon Review and has served on the Advisory Board of several other literary magazines, including The Southern Review.
He has given lectures at many conferences and dramatic readings from his fiction at over 200 colleges and universities. Writer-in-Residence at UNC-Chapel Hill, Clark University, Lynchburg College, among others, and Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Delaware, he held the Chair of Excellence at Austin Peay State University.
David Madden: A Writer for All Genres consists of original essays by scholars and creative writers on Madden’s writings.
Madden speaks and writes of a single flow of creative energy as animating every role he plays in his life, son, husband, father, grandfather, lover, teacher, writer, “cause-monger.” Madden’s causes have been and remain protecting the First Amendment, anti-nuclear energy, residential hospice, gun control, and anti-death penalty.
While his first and third novel may be described as autobiographical, his pride is in those “purely” imagined, especially Abducted by Circumstance; he believes more in the supremacy of imagination over the influence of place, in his case Knoxville, Alaska, Chile, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Washington DC, Kentucky, Ohio, even Louisiana where he lived from 1968 through 2010, Paris, Venice, Rome, London, Istanbul, Costa Rica, Weimar, in few of those places has he set novels or any other genre. Nor has he ever been influenced by the writers in the places he has lived, not even Baton Rouge and New Orleans, nor felt that he was part of any group, except, in part, southern writers, but he has renounced even that in favor of his Appalachian mountain heritage, now regarding himself as a Mountain writer.
Madden and his wife moved to Black Mountain, North Carolina in 2009. Madden has many associations with North Carolina, beginning with his first teaching job, at Appalachian State Teachers College (now Appalachian State University); in 1965, he was writer in residence at Chapel Hill; and he often talks at meetings of the Thomas Wolfe Society.
Madden’s father was James Helvy Madden (b. 1908), whose father John and mother Musetta, both of East Tennessee, died when James was 11; his older sister raised him; he had two sisters and four brothers. All his family, originally farmers, lived in South Knoxville and worked there in the East Tennessee Packing House, owned by another Madden family. James great grandmother was a Helvy from Warfeld in Bavaria; his great grandfather was from Ireland.
James married Emile Luttrell Merritt in 1929. Her father was a lumberyard salesman and watchman who shot himself on the job in 1936. Her mother, Jessie Carr Willis, opened a café next to a fire station in Knoxville; she married John Rudd, a fireman, in 1947.
When James died in 1979, General Patton’s son wrote to his ex-wife, Emile, to tell her that his father “loved Jimmy.”
David Madden, named after one of the sons who ran the East Tennessee Packing House, had three brothers: James Richard (1930-2006), John Kenneth (1936-2000), and Ronald Dennis, who died at 11 weeks old. James and John, con men who, starting at early ages, were in and out of the reform school, prison, and the armed services, figure prominently in Madden’s short stories and novels, especially Bijou, Brothers in Confidence, and Pleasure Dome, as do his parents, and his grandmother, whose oral storytelling techniques influenced his writing and his dramatic readings, performances, of his writing.
Blake, born in 1960 in New Haven, Connecticut, is a photographer and teacher of photography (and rock climber) lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina. His daughter, Kuniko Nicole was born in 1990 in Augusta, Georgia.
Madden’s wife, Roberta, is a politic animal, whose activities he has supported in ways that are part of his personal history. Ms. Madden helped start N.O.W. in Louisiana and spearheaded the original movement to pass the ERA, and has reactivated the effort in recent years. She was editor of the AFL-CIO labor newspaper in Louisville, and in Baton Rouge, Director of Consumer Protection, Common Cause (in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas), Director of the YWCA, starting programs on early breast cancer detection for low income women, and a very successful series called Dialogues on Race, an effort she continues in Black Mountain, North Carolina, near Asheville.
Abducted by Circumstance
Sharpshooter: A Novel of the Civil War [U. Tenn. Press, 1996, nominated for Pulitzer Prize]
On the Big Wind [Holt, 1980]
Pleasure-Dome [Bobbs-Merrill, l979]
The Suicide’s Wife [Bobbs-Merrill, 1978, nominated for Pulitzer Prize; made into a CBS Movie]
Bijou [Crown, 1974, a Book of the Month Club Selection]
Brothers in Confidence [Avon, 1972]
Hair of the Dog [Adam, serial, 1968]
Cassandra Singing [Crown, 1969, N.Y. Times Selection. Wrote screenplay for Warner Brothers] Reprinted by University of Tennessee Press, 1999.
The Beautiful Greed [Random House, 1961]
Collections of Short Stories
The New Orleans of Possibilities [LSU Press, 1982]
The Shadow Knows [LSU Press, 1970, a National Council on the Arts Selection]
Over 60. Thirteen Short Stories in Twenty-four Anthologies, mostly textbooks, including Norton, Contemporary; two in Best American Short Stories: 1969 and 1971.
Over 60 poems, several reprinted in anthologies.
Venice Is Sinking is a collection, not yet published.
Plays, Libretti, and A Radio Play
In The Summer They Slaughter Cattle C. 1947
Call Herman In To Summer 1949
The Great Wings Still Beating C. 1950
Cassandra Singing – 1 Act C. 1953
Medea – A Radio Play C. 1954
The Idealists C. 1955
From Rome To Damascus C. 1956
Cassandra Singing – 3 Acts (Mid-Version) C. 1958
Hecuba’s Lament (A Libretto) C. 1958
They Shall Endure C. 1959
The Freeway C. 1960
The Deep Sleep C. 1960
Casina (Book For A Musical) C. 1964
Fugitive Masks C. 1964
Intimations (A Libretto) C. 1965
In My Father’s House (1 Act Version Of The Freeway) C. 1966
Cassandra Singing (Final 3 Act Version) 1967
Cassandra Singing (Screenplay) 1970
The Day The Flowers Came C. 1970
Cassandra Singing (A Radio Play) C. 1980
Rosanna And Angelina (Libretto) 1989
Five Plays won state and national contests and have been produced [Yale Drama School, Actor’s Studio, Barter Theater, Etc.] and Published [First Stage, Dramatic Publishing, Etc].
Screenplay: Cassandra Singing [Warner Brothers, not yet filmed]
Touching the Web of Southern Writers, UT Press, 2006 [collection of my essays on Faulkner, Warren, Agee, Wolfe, McCullers.].
Harlequin’s Stick, Charlie’s Cane [Popular Culture Press, 1975] First book to compare commedia dell’arte & silent movie comedy]
James M. Cain [Twayne, 1970] First book on Cain.
Cain’s Craft [Scarecrow Press, 1985] A more specific study of James M. Cain’s craft as a novelist and of his movie writing]
The Poetic Image in Six Genres [Southern Illinois University Press, 1969] Collection of my literary essays.
Wright Morris [Twayne, 1964] First book on Morris.
The Fiction Tutor: The Art of Writing and Reading Fiction [Harcourt Brace, 1990]
Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers [Plume-Penguin, 1988; nine printings]. Reprinted 2002 by Barnes and Noble Publishers.
A Primer of the Novel: For Readers and Writers [Scarecrow, 1979]. Major revision under contract.
Writers’ Revisions: An Annotated Bibliography of Articles and Books About Writers’ Revisions and Their Comments on the Creative Process [Scarecrow, 1980], with Richard Powers.
On Literature, Specific Writers, and Civil War History
Thomas Wolfe’s Civil War, ed., U. of Alabama Press, 2004, editor.
Losses and Survivors of the Sultana, UT Press, 2005, editor.
O. Henry’s Civil War Surprises, ed. Proposal submitted to U of Alabama Press.
Beyond the Battlefield: The Ordinary Life and Extraordinary Times of the Civil War Soldier [Simon and Schuster, 2000.]
The Legacy of Robert Penn Warren, LSU Press, 2000.
Classics of Civil War Fiction [University Press of Mississippi, 1991], with Peggy Bach. Reprinted, revised, by University of Alabama Press, 2000.
Rediscoveries II [Carroll and Graf, 1988]. With Peggy Bach; essays written on request by famous novelists on their favorite neglected novel.
Remembering James Agee [LSU Press, 1974; major revised edition, University of Georgia Press, 1997]
Contemporary Literary Scene [Salem Press, 1974, v. I; 1979, v. II] With Frank Magill.
Nathanael West: The Cheaters and the Cheated [Edward/Edwards Press, 1973]Rediscoveries [Crown, 1971]
American Dreams, American Nightmares [Southern Illinois University Press, 1970]
Tough Guy Writers of the Thirties [Southern Illinois University Press, 1968]
Proletarian Writers of the Thirties [Southern Illinois University Press, 1968]
Over 50; most began as invited lectures to professional societies in literature, film, popular culture, and published in major scholarly journals and many have been reprinted in anthologies. The essays are on the novel, poetry, drama, film, history, philosophy, psychology, etc., and on Faulkner, Bronte, Wolfe, McCullers, Joyce, Camus, Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O’Connor, Hannah, Robert Penn Warren, Joyce Carol Oates, John Hawkes, William Gaddis, Nathaniel West, Ross MacDonald, James Dickey, Jules Romains, Conrad, Albee, Kurasawa, O,Neill, James Agee.
Literature Textbooks in Four Genres : [Note: First 9 now published by Heinle and Heinle, formerly Harcourt]
A Pocketful of Essays in two volumes, 
A Pocketful of Plays 
A Pocketful of Plays II 
A Pocketful of Poems 
A Pocketful of Poems II 
A Pocketful of Prose: Vintage II 
A Pocketful of Prose: Vintage 
A Pocketful of Prose: Contemporary 
Eight Classic American Novels 
The World of Fiction [Original publisher, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1990]
Studies in the Short Story [Originally published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1976, etc.: 4th and 5th editions with Virgil Scott, 6th alone]
Creative Choices: A Spectrum of Quality and Technique in Fiction [Scott, Foresman, 1975]
The Popular Culture Explosion [William C. Brown Publishers, 1972, with Ray B. Browne]. Among the first on this subject.
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL WRITINGS AND INTERVIEWS
“Cassandra Singing–On and Off Key; or How not to Write a Play.” Drama
Critique, 10 (Spring 1967), 58-70. PI
“The Agnostic Priesthood.” Discourse: A Review of the Liberal Arts, 11
(Spring 1968), 171-82.
“The Floating Tower.” The Register (Baton Rouge), 22 (1 August 1970), 16.
“The Compulsion to Tell a Story.” Journal of Popular Culture, 5 (Fall
“The Cartridge Belt.” Massachusetts Review, 13 (Autumn 1972), 681-701. As memoir.
“Marble Goddesses and Mortal Flesh: Notes for an Erotic Memoir of the
Forties.” Film Journal, 2 (September 1972), 2-19.
“The Story-teller as Benevolent Con Man.” Appalachian Heritage, 2 (Summer
“Portrait of the Artist as a Bijou Usher.” Proceedings of the Sixth
National Convention of the Popular Culture Association, Chicago, April
22-24, 1976. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University
Popular Press, 1976, pp. 94-112 (microfilm).
[David Madden discussing pp. 233-39 of Bijou.] Cassette tape recording
in the Faculty Collection of the Louisiana Room, Louisiana State University
[My Credo.] Center, No. 10 (November 1977), 37.
“Performing ‘The Singer’: an Introduction to Oral Interpretation.”
Dramatics, 50 (September/October 1978), 28-32.
“Cassandra Singing as Novel, Play and Movie.” Contemporary Literary
Scene II. Ed. Frank N. Magill, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem
Press, 1979, pp. 181-93. Also adapted to radio commissioned by Earplay, not produced.
“Let Me Tell You the Story: Transforming the Oral Tradition.” Appalachian
Journal, 7 (Spring 1980), 210-29.
“Under the Pleasure-Dome.” Southern Exposure, 9 (Summer 1981), 36-39.
“David Madden: If a Writer’s Works Are His Life,” Contemporary Authors,
Autobiography Series, Gale Research, Volume 3, 185-2-6, 1987.
“My Brother, Sunshine” and “The Pond,” memoirs. Louisiana Review, v. 2,
Summer, 2000, 107-116.
Interviews with David Madden
1. Greg Spaid 1967
2. Sanford Pinsker, “A Conversation with David Madden.” Critique 15.3 (1973): 5-14. The interview was given in 1971.
3. Allen Wier, “Interview with David Madden.” The Penny Dreadful 3 (Spring 1974).
4. Ruth Laney, “Interview with David Madden.” Southern Review 11 (Jan. 1975):167-80. The interview took place in 1974.
5. Samuel Prestridge, “An Interview with David Madden.” Mississippi Review 6.3 (1977): 9-12.
6. Ray Jones, “An Interview with David Madden.” New Orleans Review 9.1 (Spring-Summer 1982): 29-35. The original interview was in 1980.
7. William Parrill, “Telling It Again: A Conversation with David Madden.” Louisiana Literature Fall, 1984 reprinted in The Long Haul: Conversations with Southern Authors. New York: UP of America, 1994. 39-58.
8. Jacqueline Jones. “Interview with David Madden.” WUOT-FM November 1985.
9. Jeffrey J. Folks, “Interview with David Madden on Technique in Fiction.” Southern Quarterly 25.2 (Winter 1987): 24-38. The original interview was in 1984.
10. “David Madden on Southern Literature.” Ed. A.B. Crowder. Writing in the Southern Tradition: Interviews with 5 Contemporary Authors. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1990. 164-69
11. “David Madden on Writing.” Ed. A.B. Crowder. Writing in the Southern Tradition: Interviews with 5 Contemporary Authors. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1990. 170-82.
12. Peggy Bach, “Interview with David Madden: ‘The Theatrical Image.’” The Southern Quarterly 33.2-3 (Winter-Spring 1995): 215-25. Rpt. Southern Novelists On Stage and Screen. Ed. David Madden, with George Garrett and Irving Malin. A special double issue of The Southern Quarterly (Winter-Spring 1995). The original interview was in 1994.
13. Jeffrey J. Folks, “Outside Events: Inside the Imagination: An Interview with David Madden.” New Letters 64.7 (1997): 88-105.
14. Randy Hendricks & James A. Perkins, David Madden on his Work: An Interview in David Madden: A writer for All Genres Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006.
15. James A. Perkins, David Madden on Creative Writing 2002
16. Jeffrey J. Folks 2006
17. William Parrill, Myriad Mindedness: An Interview with David Madden 2010
AWARDS, PRIZES, LECTURESHIPS
LSU Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award
American Association of State and Local Historians
Rockefeller Grant in Fiction [judged by Saul Bellow, Robert Penn Warren]
John Golden Fellowship in Playwriting, Yale Drama School
Raney Fellowship, Bread Loaf Writers Conference
National Council on the Arts Award for Fiction [judged by Walker Percy, Hortense Calisher]
New Letters Award for Best Fiction Reading for Radio
New Letters, Jack Conroy Award for the Short Story
Pearl Setzer Deal Award for Religious Drama
University of Tennessee State Wide One Act Play Contest (three times)
Baton Rouge Little Theater National Playwriting Contest
University of Nebraska National Playwriting Contest
Gitlin Prize for best essay on Thomas Wolfe, Thomas Wolfe Society
David Madden, Special collections, University of Tennessee Libraries
David Madden Collection of Civil War Novels, Special Collections, Louisiana State University Libaries
CRITICAL WRITING ON MADDEN”
Bamberger, William C. “Madden, (Jerry) David.” Contemporary Novelists, 4th ed., edited by D. L. Kirkpatrick. London: St. James, 1986. 555-58.
Garrett, George. “Cassandra Singing by David Madden.” Southern Excursions: Views on Southern Letters in My Time. Ed. James Conrad McKinley. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003. 115-18.
Kirsch, Robert. “David Madden, Tough Guy Writers of the Thirties.” Lives, Works, and Transformations: A Quarter Century of Book Reviews and Essays. Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1978. 80-81.
Pinsker, Sanford. “The Mixed Cords of David Madden’s Cassandra Singing. Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction, Vol. 15, no. 2, 1973. 15-26. Rpt. In Sanford Pinsker, Between Two Worlds: The American Novel in the 1960’s. Troy, New York: The Whitston Publishing Company, 1980. 103-14.
Richards, Jeffrey H. “David Madden.” Contemporary Poets, Dramatists, Essayists, and Novelists o the South: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. Eds. Robert Bain and Joseph M. Flora. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. 1994. 308-18.
Straub, Deborah A. “Madden, (Jerry) David.” Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series. Vol. 4, edited by Ann Evory. Detroit: Gale Research, 1981. 393-96.
Ward, William S. “David Madden.” A Literary History of Kentucky. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1988. 401-03.