Book review: Unknown story about two great American authors

In his absorbing new biography, "The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War," New York Times bestselling author and Lenox native, James McGrath Morris brings us a new saga in the ever-fascinating world of Ernest Hemingway.

The story adds such amazing depth, complexity and importance to the Hemingway legend. It hardly seems possible that we could know more about Hemingway, but this biography captures one of the most important aspects of his life beyond what we already know of his time in Paris, Key West and his misadventures in Africa.

"The Ambulance Drivers" is the story of two great American authors of very different temperaments, lifestyles and writing styles whose experiences in their harrowing enlistment as ambulance drivers in World War I bonded them for life. We come to know how that adventure utterly changed their world view. It caused them to become expatriates as "the lost generation" in Paris because Americans in their view, did not grasp the importance of that war in how it changed the world. Of course, the horrendous carnage they witnessed and experienced (Hemingway was injured by shrapnel in his knee) also made these two men close. Their talk of literature and John Dos Passos' early success was most important to the struggling writer in Hemingway. Later, it became a source of envy and resentment.

While they were inseparable as friends early on in Europe, later in life they grew increasingly apart because of fundamental approaches in how they portrayed the war, reflected on difficult times together and their rivalry as their careers took altered paths. This biography expertly details what has heretofore been a lesser known chapter in both authors' stories. Morris brings forth their early lives and development as important American authors with satisfying detail and a thoroughness of character development. The portrait of them in this ever-fascinating era in which they lived brings a new clarity to their lives. This book enlivens the times and the literature of these two men with fresh insights. We feel the angst and the passion of these two powerful characters of letters simply being who they are in their respective greatness and living the inevitable balance of their powers with a seething presence.

Award-winning author James McGrath Morris will introduce his new biography at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox. Admission is $26 by reservation and $32 on the day of the event.

Colin Harrington is the Events Manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. Colin welcomes reader comments at

Read it

"The Ambulance Drivers"

By James McGrath Morris

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Pages: 251


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