Born on December 28, 1933, Charles Portis was raised and educated in various towns in southern Arkansas. Following service in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, he enrolled in the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and graduated with a degree in journalism in 1958.
After his graduation, Portis worked for various newspapers as a reporter, including nearly two years at the Arkansas Gazette and four years at the New York Herald Tribune (which also employed Tom Wolfe, Lewis Lapham, and Jimmy Breslin at the time). After serving a year as the Herald Tribune’s London bureau chief and reporter, he left journalism in 1964, returned to Arkansas, and began writing fiction full time.
A long-time resident of Little Rock, Portis gained some notoriety and financial independence from film and paperback rights to his first two novels, Norwood (1966) and True Grit (1968), but he has consistently avoided the public spotlight. He has been proclaimed by some critics to be a “writer’s writer,” and his novel True Grit has been proclaimed as “one of the great American novels.”
In addition to his five novels, Portis has also contributed shorter fiction and nonfiction articles to such periodicals as the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, the Arkansas Times, and the Oxford American. He also wrote one play, Delray’s New Moon, which was performed as a reading by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in April 1996. In 2010, Portis was honored with the Oxford American’s first Lifetime Achievement in Southern Literature award.
True Grit first appeared as a 1968 serial in The Saturday Evening Post. Portis subsequently re-issued it in book form with a somewhat changed storyline.