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John Bowers was raised in Johnson City, Tennessee, during the Great Depression and World War II era. He graduated from Science Hill High School in 1946 and from the University of Tennessee in 1951. From there, he attended the Handy Writers Colony in Marshall, Illinois, founded by Lowney Turner Handy and her husband, Harry Handy, along with her student, the best-selling novelist James Jones. An autobiographical and perhaps slightly fictionalized account of this adventure is Bowers’s first major novel, The Colony, published in 1971.
During the 1960s, Bowers published numerous interviews and articles in major magazines, including The New York Times, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, New York, Cosmopolitan, and Harper’s, some of which were collected in paperback under the title The Golden Bowers in the early 1970s. The subjects of these include such notable figures as Janis Joplin, Duke Ellington, Joe Namath, Sharon Tate, Andy Warhol, Dionne Warwick, Lee Grosscup, James T. Farrell and more.
His second novel, No More Reunions (1973), about his teen years in Johnson City, was optioned for film but the movie was never made. A third novel of that period, Helene (1976), is a Lolita-like tale set in 1950s America with college-age males and a young teenage girl.
In the Land of Nyx: Night and Its Inhabitants (1984), Bowers’s next novel, was a study of the subculture of people who live their lives at night rather than during the daylight. Probably inspired by his father, who was night manager at the local railroad station during John’s childhood, this book is difficult to classify in any standard genre, and languished somewhat after its release because bookstores and libraries did not know quite what to do with it.
Turning his attention to historical examination of the Civil War, Bowers wrote Stonewall Jackson: Portrait of a Soldier (1990) and Chickamauga and Chattanooga: The Battles That Doomed the Confederacy (2000), which mix fact, fiction, and anecdotes.
His latest memoir/novel is Love in Tennessee, originally published by Red Hen Press in 2009, is being brought out again by Greenpoint Press, which will simultaneously republish his first book, The Colony. Both are currently available for sale on the Shop page.
He has just completed a novel called Live Girls Dancing and is writing a memoir of his service in Korea. His play, Remembrance of Things Present, has been produced twice Off-Broadway.
Bowers has been published in over 200 magazine. He has been a magazine editor as well as a creator of a few.
For over two decades he was on the faculty as an Adjunct Professor in the Writing Program at Columbia University. He is currently a Professor of Writing at Wilkes University