John Bowers joins an oddball group of young men trying to become writers in Marshall, Illinois, under the guidance of Lowney T. Handy, the only female on the premises. She is a messianic married woman who mentored and supported a young James Jones while he wrote From Here to Eternity and who still holds him under her spell. Bowers leaves the love of his life in Tennessee, the unforgettable Juanita, and arrives at the Colony.
He gets a barracks-like room, a cot and a desk on which he puts his Underwood Noiseless typewriter. He gets hot Jell-O and large-curd cottage cheese, but no newspapers or radio. (All lies!) Because he is told that women and marriage ruin a writer's life, he is drawn to sporting houses in Terre Haute. He takes a hallucinatory cross-country trip, partly by motorcycle, to visit Jones and Mrs. Handy in winter quarters in Tucson, where he meets a disheveled Montgomery Clift, who's about to star in From Here to Eternity.
Back in Marshall, Norman Mailer comes to call. Memorable characters abound, and there are surprises galore. Bowers gets attacked-his head is played like a xylophone against a radiator by a mad fellow colonist-and Juanita calls and wants to fly up. He writes a novel called The Thirst of Youth that is never published, and he learns that all the freedom he has dreamed of may not compare with all he has lost.
John Bowers was born, raised and educated in Tennessee. He is married and divides his time between New York City and a cabin in the Catskills.
"[The Colony] is an excellent book, a durable book, that tells much more than it says." - The New Yorker
"An adventure in the rich American vein that runs from Mark Twain to Charles Portis." - Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
"A rich, powerful, funny, and ultimately heart-breaking memoir." - The New York Times Sunday Book Review