Scott Donaldson

Death of a Rebel: The Charlie Fenton Story

This short and arresting book tells the story of the charismatic Charlie Fenton, a handsome and rebellious writer-teacher who survived two dozen missions as a tail gunner with the RAF Bomber Command in 1942 and 1943 before going AWOL, wrote a prize-winning novel, returned to the States to get married and resume his studies at Yale (where he had been kicked out before the war), zoomed through his B A, MA, and PhD in record time, turned his doctoral thesis into one of the best books ever written about Ernest Hemingway (with whom he conducted a combative correspondence), began to teach American literature and writing to Yale undergraduates, was lured down to Duke by an unprecedented promotion from assistant to full professor, won Guggenheim and ACLS grants, turned out two more books, starred in the classroom, and became one of the most popular instructors on campus among students and manifestly the most troublesome faculty member to the administration though his outspoken attacks on fraternities and football and advocacy of integration and Martin Luther King-inspired sit-down strikes, fell in love with a graduate student leading to the dissolution of his marriage, succumbed to depression, and a few minutes after 5 a.m. on Thursday, July 21, 1960, at forty-one years of age leaped to his death from the top floor of the tallest hotel in Durham, NC. It was the worst thing that ever happened during his fifty-year connection with Duke, said his friend and colleague Reynolds Price.
Fenton was a mentor to many students at Yale and Duke, Donaldson among them. His book attempts to discover what drove someone as successful and admired as Charlie Fenton to take his own life at the peak of his career.

Selected Works

"A captivating and intimate glimpse of the challenges and rewards of writing lives of novelists and poets."
--Publishers Weekly
Donaldson brings "to the narrative of Fenton's life and career the same effective blend of indefatigable archival skills and the gift of telling a compelling story in an engaging manner that he has displayed in his earlier work."
-Jackson R. Bryer, Hopkins Review
With this book "Donaldson continues to show himself as a beacon in American literary scholarship, a major voice with an awareness of the interconnectedness between biography and criticism."
-Joseph Fruscione, American Literary Scholarship 2009
"For too long Edwin Arlington Robinson has been consigned to the ranks of peripheral poets. Scott Donaldson -- a gifted biographer -- has brought this remarkable man and his poetry vividly to life."
--Jay Parini, poet/novelist/biographer
"...fresh, risky, talky, bold, and ultimately brilliant. We close [the book] deeply satisfied that we’ve read all there is to know about the men."
--Denise Gess, Raleigh News and Observer
"John Cheever: A Biography is clearly an indispensable book."
--Dan Cryer, Newsday
"A stunning portrait...full of intriguing insights."
--Publishers Weekly
Very brief description goes here
"An often illuminating and constantly fascinating mosaic of Ernest Hemingway's mind and personality."
--New York Times Book Review