Frederick Turner

Frederick Turner

Frederick Turner is the author of seven books of nonfiction and three novels. The recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, he lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

"Frederick Turner's Redemption is an implacable stew of sex and love, vice and violence. Turner is a prose master and also a bear of very large brain. Rarely do we see a novel on this grand scale of historical perceptiveness, with our country's bruised soul a backstory to the finely drawn ordinary characters who become mythic in the progress of the tale. This is an important novel." —Jim Harrison, author of TRUE NORTH and LEGENDS OF THE FALL


Frederick Turner's book RENEGADE: HENRY MILLER AND THE MAKING OF "TROPIC OF CANCER" was released in December 2011 by Yale University Press. The book was featured as the front page review in the New York Times on January 29.

THE GO-BETWEEN: A NOVEL OF THE KENNEDY YEARS, Frederick Turner’s newest book, is now available in paperback.

Christopher Merrill, author of Things of the Hidden Go, says, "Desire and power lie at the intersection of Hollywood, the Mob, and the presidency of JFK, expertly navigated by Frederick Turner in his new novel.  The Go-Between is historical fiction that feels not only contemporary, but prescient, and its heroine, the beautiful Judith Campbell Exner, is a figure for the ages.  She moves gracefully from one world to another, filling this dark fable with her hopes and dashed dreams.  You may fall in love with her, like some of the most powerful men of her day, and you will not be alone."


New York Times Book Review of Renegade
Frederick Turner's website
The Wichita Eagle: RENEGADE book review



The hard-drinking, sweet-tempered cornettist and composer Bix Beiderbecke has held a fascination for jazz fans ever since his death, in 1931, at the age of twenty-eight. Turner's novel weaves this mystique into its own fabric, framing the events leading to Bix's downfall with the story of two characters—a brother and sister, both associated with Al Capone's Chicago racket—who become entangled in the jazzman's messy life. Written in a period-appropriate overheated, romantic prose, and incorporating memorable appearances by Capone, Bing Crosby, Maurice Ravel, Paul Whiteman, and Clara Bow, the book is by turns corny, intoxicating, and ineffably sad, like the "hot" music it is designed to evoke.

 --From The New Yorker

(Counterpoint Press, May 2004)


Francis Muldoon is a special policeman in the notorious Storyville District of New Orleans in 1913. His job is to see that the District’s volatile mixture of sex, alcohol, and gambling doesn’t boil over but instead rolls along at a continuous simmer. Once a member of the city’s regular police force, he now works for the District’s vice lord, Tom Anderson, patrolling his patron’s honky-tonks and saloons and whorehouses—both the high-priced bordellos and the coffinlike cribs where the girls work with only a cot and a washbasin. When Adele, a beautiful singer at the Tuxedo dance hall, draws Francis into a contentious rivalry for her affection, a fatal shootout is the inevitable conclusion, sending the District into a scalding eruption and revealing the central characters for what they are.

Filled with the rich atmosphere of America’s most colorful city, Redemption is the powerfully told tale of a man’s efforts to restore the integrity of his soul.

(Harcourt, November 2006)

The Go-Between: A Novel of the Kennedy Years

A faded newspaperman downs a double Maker's Mark and contemplates life as a "ham-and-egger," a hack.  Then one day he finds the scoop of a lifetime in a Chicago basement: diaries belonging to the infamous Judith Campbell Exner.  Right, that Judy, the game girl who waltzed into the midst of America's most powerful politicians, entertainers, and criminals as they conspired to rule America.

When Frank Sinatra flew Judy to Hawaii for a weekend of partying, she could harly have imagined where it would lead her: straight to the White House and the waiting arms of Jack Kennedy.  And then came the day that JFK and his brother Bobby asked her to carry a black bag to Chicago, where she was to hand it off to the boss of bosses, Sam Giancana.  As our narrator pieces the notebooks into a coherent story, he finds mob connections, rigged primaries, assassination plots, and trysts--and begins to see beyond the tabloid fare to a real woman, adrift and defenseless in a dangerous world where the fates of nations are at stake.  As one by one the men Judy loved betrayed her and disappeared, and as the FBI pursued her into a living hell, her diary entries disintegrate along with the beautiful, tough, sweet woman the narrator has come to know.  Who was Exner, after all? Just a gangster's moll? Or a bighearted woman who believed the sky-high promises of the New Frontier--and paid the price? 

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2010)

Renegade: Henry Miller and the Making of "Tropic of Cancer"

Though branded as pornography for its graphic language and explicit sexuality, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer is far more than a work that tested American censorship laws. In this riveting book, published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Tropic of Cancer's initial U.S. release, Frederick Turner investigates Miller's unconventional novel, its tumultuous publishing history, and its unique place in American letters.

Written in the slums of a foreign city by a man who was an utter literary failure in his homeland, Tropic of Cancer was published in 1934 by a pornographer in Paris, but soon banned in the United States. Not until 1961, when Grove Press triumphed over the censors, did Miller's book appear in American bookstores. Turner argues that Tropic of Cancer is "lawless, violent, colorful, misogynistic, anarchical, bigoted, and shaped by the same forces that shaped the nation." Further, the novel draws on more than two centuries of New World history, folklore, and popular culture in ways never attempted before. How Henry Miller, outcast and renegade, came to understand what literary dynamite he had within him, how he learned to sound his "war whoop" over the roofs of the world, is the subject of Turner's revelatory study.

(Yale University Press, December 2011)