The first and definitive biography of one of the great American novelists of the postwar era, the author of Dog Soldiers and A Flag for Sunrise, and a penetrating critic of American power, innocence, and corruption.
Madison Smartt Bell captures every aspect of Stone’s contradictory nature, especially his work ethic ... One of the best sections of this praiseworthy biography is the account of a trip he took with Stone to Haiti, along with one of Stone’s mistresses, who had to nursemaid the novelist when it appeared that he might die while traveling to a voodoo ritual ... Yet sympathetic as he is to his subject, Bell never softens his focus or smooths over Stone’s less admirable traits ... Bell has a novelist’s gimlet eye for details, and the Stone archive offered him rich material. It revealed as much about the state of publishing in the 21st century as it did about Stone ... While I wish there had been more about Stone’s early life, the daughter he fathered outside his marriage and the sexual partners who clearly influenced his fiction, Bell does a laudable job of explicating Stone’s novels ... In the end, Child of Light leaves the reader with the urge to return to all of Robert Stone’s work—surely the best sign of a fine biography.
... revealing ... a sensitive and thorough biography. Bell knew Stone well toward the end of his life; the two traveled together in Haiti. The author explicates Stone’s fiction and expands its context. If this quite conventional biography never entirely takes off, it is rarely uninteresting ... Bell writes with special alertness about Stone’s marriage ... This is one of those rare biographies in which you don’t feel like skimming the first 35 pages.
...essential and much anticipated ... Bell’s tone throughout is so scrupulous and matter-of-fact, the pitch of emotion rarely rising much above a police report as he unfurls the great writer’s life—the childhood, the education, the navy years, the early publications, and so on ... In some ways, the even-keeled tone is as much an homage as the facts he has accumulated ... In some ways, Child of Light is as much a biography of a marriage as it is of a writer, and toward the end Stone’s books come to seem almost like collaborations with Janice, just as Bell’s biography is buttressed by her work as an archivist, interlocutor, and writer ... Bell gives us all the many pieces of Stone’s life and the composition of his writings, and some analysis, as well. It’s an illuminating appendix to a master’s body of work.