George Perry's War
GARNA L. CHRISTIAN*
W ORLD WAR TWO BISECTED THE WRITING CAREER OF TEXAN GEORGE
Sessions Perry, dividing his creative years between fiction writing,
which resulted in two celebrated prewar novels, and postwar journalism,
which produced tightly written but often uninspired articles. While the
latter phase brought him larger reading audiences and pecuniary re-
wards, Perry's friends and followers almost universally considered the
evolution tragic, a waste of genius and a possible contributor to the au-
thor's subsequent mental illness and suicide.'
Ironically, it was Perry who placed himself in the vortex which many
believe transformed his literary and private lives. Immediately catego-
rized unfit for military duty due to an arm injury sustained in a fall from
a horse, the Rockdale native wheedled his way into the North African
and European theaters as a war correspondent. A writer for the New
Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post, he made himself the target of
bombing and torpedo attacks and joined the front line of the Sicilian in-
vasion. Yet, his lack of combat seemingly weighed on his mind and con-
jured up old images of inadequacy.
Perry personally credited the war with changing his literary bent. In a
much quoted statement, he said that the war had "defictionized" him.
He stated matter-of-factly in an autobiographical piece, "During the war
* Garna L. Christian is a professor of history at the University of Houston-Downtown.
'The most complete biography of George Sessions Perry is Maxine Cousins Hairston, George
Sessions Perry, Hzs Life and Works (Austin. Jenkins Publishing Co, 1973). See also Stanley G.
Alexander, George Sesszons Perry (Austin: Steck-Vaughn Co., 1967); Robert G. Cowser, "A Bio-
graphical and Critical Interpretation of George Sessions Perry (1910-1956)" (Ph.D. diss., Texas
Christian University, 1965); John Mason Brown, "The King-Sized Texan, George Sessions Perry,"
Saturday Review (Aug 15, 1959), 14-15, 40; Twentieth Century Authors, ed. StanleyJ. Kunitz and
Howard Haycraft (New York: H. W. Wilson Co, 1955), First Supplement, 773, Lewis Nordyke,
"George Sessions Perry: The Rockdale Reporter," Texas Parade (Oct., 1952), 30-32; Harry R.
Warfel, "George Sessions Perry," American Novelists of Today (New York- American Book Co.,
1951), 339-340 For an insightful personal relationship see Truman McMahan, "Remembering
George Sessions Perry," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 95 (Jan., 1992), 369-376.
VOL. CII, NO. 2 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY OCTOBER, 1998
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/. Accessed February 27, 2015.