Speer Morgan (1946–)

The author of novels and short-story collections, Speer Morgan is a professor and the editor of The Missouri Review. Many of Morgan’s novels are set in Arkansas, including The Freshour Cylinders (1998), which won Foreword Magazine’s Silver Award for the best book of the year and an American Book Award in 1999.

Speer Morgan was born in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on January 25, 1946, to Charles Donald and Betty (Speer) Morgan. Morgan attended the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, from 1964 to 1966, as well as the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he received a BA in 1968. He married that same year. He received a PhD in 1972 from Stanford University.

Morgan was assistant professor at the University of Missouri–Columbia from 1972 to 1978, was associate professor beginning in 1978, and is currently a professor of English. He also taught at the Moberly Area Junior College (a men’s correctional facility) in 1977 and was a member of the literature panel for the National Endowment for the Arts from 1975 to 1979.

While at Stanford doing graduate work, Morgan started seriously writing fiction. His early fiction was collected in Frog Gig and Other Stories in 1976. His first novel, Belle Star, followed in 1979. It was set in Arkansas and the Indian Territory during the late 1800s. Whipping Boy, which is set in the late 1800s in Oklahoma Territory, follows Tom Freshour, a mixed-blood orphan, and its sequel, The Freshour Cylinders, is set in Depression-era Fort Smith, near the Oklahoma border. The Assemblers, a high-tech thriller, is also set in Arkansas.

Morgan has won several awards, including the Best Story of the Year award from Prairie Schooner in 1978, for “Internal Combustion.” He was a fiction fellow for the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994. He won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 1999 for The Freshour Cylinders and a Lawrence Foundation Prize in 2000 for “The Girl.” Morgan has contributed short stories to several magazines and journals, including Harper’s, the Atlantic Monthly, and Iowa Review. In 1980, he became the editor of The Missouri Review, a well-known literary journal. He is also the co-editor of The Best of the Missouri Review (University of Missouri Press, 1991) and For Our Beloved Country: Diaries of Americans in War (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1993). He published the story collection The God Pocket in 2011.

Morgan has been a visiting writer at the University of Texas in 1982 and at UA in 1997. He has given readings and lectures in the United States, Spain, and at the Paris Writers Workshop 2000. Morgan lives in Columbia, Missouri, with his wife, Virginia, who is a teacher.

For additional information:
Contemporary Authors. Vols. 97–100. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981.

Fishmen, Ken. “Writing a First Novel, Part II.” The Writer 92 (May 1979): 21–25.

“Speer Morgan.” Department of English. University of Missouri–Columbia. https://english.missouri.edu/people/morgan (accessed January 26, 2023).

C. L. Bledsoe
Ghoti magazine


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