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Bruce Olds author's photo

Reared in the Upper Midwest, but having resided at various periods in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and Chicago, Bruce Olds is the author of four award-winning works of fiction, the Pulitzer Prize nominated The Moments Lost (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007), Bucking the Tiger (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001) the Pulitzer Prize Finalist Raising Holy Hell (Henry Holt, 1995), and most recently This Way Slaughter, (Wings Press, 2018).

His nonfiction work has appeared in Granta and American Heritage among other publications, and has been anthologized by the Modern Library, as well as by both the MIT Press and Ohio University Press. His book reviews have been published in the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald.

After working his way through college as a Teamster, taking his B.A. in History and Literature and M.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Olds worked for several years at daily newspapers, first in Philadelphia, then in Baltimore, as an award-winning feature writer, columnist, book reviewer and copy editor, before leaving the business mid-career to devote himself full time to writing fiction.

His sui generis approach to his historical fictions—one that is genre-blurring, multi-dimensional, frankly collagist, and that privileges language and architecture over strict historicity—is, he suspects, in part the result of his having as an undergraduate studied under the pioneering literary Postmodernist scholar Ihab Hassan.

His debut novel about the abolitionist John Brown, Raising Holy Hell, was an IMPAC Dublin Literary Award nominee and a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It was named Novel of the Year by the Notable Books Council of the American Library Association and received the Quality Paperback Book Clubs New Voices Award for Fiction. It was listed as a notable book of the year by the Washington Post, Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer. Susan Dodd, in the Washington Post Book World, wrote: "Suceeds brilliantly ... Olds is an enormously inventive interpreter of history and character. He is also a daredevil stylist. The presence of his prodigious intelligence is felt on each page. He raids sacred arsenals. He wields irony like an anvil. His vocabulary is as vociferous as his opinions. He writes, one might say, like a man possessed.... An extravagant book ... opulent with nuance ... that honors history ... bringing alive a complex and horrific character...dreadful with vitality."

His second novel, Bucking the Tiger, an ALA Notable Book about the frontier dentist and gambler Doc Holliday, was adapted for the stage as The Confessions of Doc Holliday.

Richard Bernstein, writing in the New York Times, described Bucking the Tiger as: "Remarkable ... Electrifying ... Full of explosive pyrotechnic wordplay and ideas wherein one knows oneself to be in the presence of true brilliance ... Mr. Olds is a writer of a kind of clamorous, impulsive talent Poe-like in his taste for words, verbosely wry, impetuously philosophical. One reads with pleasure, even amazement at the phosphorescent quality of Mr. Olds's sentences ... An amazing book by a writer of both stylistic dazzle and intellectual substance."

Donald Newlove, in a front page Sunday review in the Philadelphia Inquirer, called Bucking the Tiger "Epic poetry disguised as a fearlessly inventive novel ... A leap of genius into quantum linguistics&Less moving on than moving in, cellularly, down into the bloody strings of lung where his hero lives ... A siren song of words ... As in Joyce's Ulysses, Olds goes forth in paragraphs spitting sparks and fireflies to whisper up a beguiling new sound from the moldy rag and bone shop of American prose."

Also writing of Bucking the Tiger, Mark Luce wrote in the Chicago Tribune: "Always dazzling ... Olds blasts his stylish prose on the page with the force and spread of a sawed-off shotgun. Imagine a younger Milan Kundera saddling his horse of philosophical underpinnings and galloping through the Wild West with several bottles of John Barth's Linguistic Glee Tonic stashed in his saddlebags."

Olds's third novel, The Moments Lost: A Midwest Pilgrim's Progress is set in turn-of-the-century Chicago and the copper mining district of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Once again, the reviews of The Moments Lost were stellar:

"Remarkable ... A big, complex book that shines a bright, brave light on one of the darkest chapters in our nation's history. The beauty of Olds's prose serves as a counterweight to the ... choking life of the men it celebrates. Intricate, dense and very beautiful." — Chicago Tribune, Kathleen Cambor, front page Sunday review (4/8/07)

"Powerfully moving ... Often brilliant and poetic. Olds's strenuous prose succeeds in illuminating a period in which life was hard." — Seattle Times, Wingate Packard (5/25/07)

"Most definitely an elevated kind of historical fiction; his novel throbs with convincing characters. Lyrical passages and crackling dialogue are deftly woven throughout... Olds has achieved something extraordinary ... a masterly narrative that equals the best of John Dos Passos's U.S.A. trilogy." — Madison Capital Times, Michael Moore (4/13/07)

"Bruce Oldss novels are unlike any other works of historical fiction. (He) is an original and lyrical writer for whom history is a fluid medium into which his stories are suspended ... The Moments Lost: A Midwest Pilgrim's Progress provides an ideal occasion to cast an eye ... onto Olds's brilliance." — Los Angeles City Beat, Anthony Miller (8/23/07)

"Acrobatically beautiful and remarkably penetrating ... Olds paints it in exquisite, violent detail." — Pubishers Weekly

"Olds writes likes a lunatic thesaurus come to life in a deliberately ... word-riffing prose ... An impressive, overtly intellectual and detailed portrait of industrial America modernizing amid an onslaught of conflicting ideologies." — Booklist

The father of an adult son, Olds lives along the Atlantic Coast of northern South Carolina.

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