This Goodly Land

Charles Gaines (January 6, 1942–present)

Other Names Used

Alabama Connections

Selected Works

Biographical Information

Charles Gaines was born in Jacksonville, Fla. He moved with his family to Birmingham, Ala., when he was around ten. Gaines had a turbulent adolescence but found some stability when he began bodybuilding in his late teens. He enrolled in Washington and Lee University in 1960 but left the school to travel around the country. Gaines then enrolled in Birmingham-Southern College from which he graduated with a BA in 1963. After graduation, he spent two years living in Ireland where he wrote and his wife painted. In 1967, Gaines earned his MFA from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He spent two years in Green Bay, Wisc., as the director of a federal program to introduce arts into public schools. Gaines and his family then moved to New Hampshire where he taught creative writing at New England College from 1970 to 1976.

In 1972, Gaines published his first novel, Stay Hungry, which was about the bodybuilding culture. Gaines co-wrote the screenplay for the movie version (released in 1976). In the 1970s and early 1980s, he published two nonfiction books about bodybuilding (Pumping Iron and its sequel), another novel, an exercise book, and a book about fitness guru Charles Atlas. Gaines co-wrote screenplays for the movie versions of his two Pumping Iron books. He also wrote for the telvision series, The American Sportsman, and adapted an Edith Wharton story, “Summer,” for the PBS series Great Performances. In the mid-1980s, Gaines started a survival game company and a sporting travel company and stopped writing to concentrate on his businesses. In the early 1990s, he sold the companies and returned to writing, co-authoring several fitness books for children with actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since then, he has written another novel, two memoirs, and numerous magazine articles. Gaines divides his time between homes in Birmingham and Nova Scotia.

Interests and Themes

Charles Gaines writes fiction and nonfiction about the psychology and practice of sports and games and is especially interested in the sport of bodybuilding. His two memoirs focus on his home in Nova Scotia and his lifelong interest in fly-fishing.

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Reference Book Chapters and Encyclopedia Entries

Location of Papers

Photo by Michael Marzelli; courtesy of the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts, Auburn University.

Last updated on May 30, 2008.

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