William Somerset Maugham (18741965) studied medicine, but the quick success of his first novel,Liza of Lambeth (1897), started him on his lifelong literary career, during which he would become one of the most popular English authors since Dickens. His own life, however, was more tragic, shocking, and fascinating than any novel. After his adored parents died, he grew up in a miserable vicarage and suffered from a physical handicap of which he was ashamed. During his lifetime, Maugham would marry and divorce, be sent to Russia as a spy, and entertain such celebrities as Jean Cocteau, Winston Churchill, Noël Coward, the Aga Khan, and Ian Fleming at his Riviera mansion. Among his masterpieces areOf Human Bondage, The Painted Veil, The Razor's Edge, and The Moon and Sixpence. In addition, such works as The Letter" and Rain" established Maugham as a gifted short story writer.
Benjamin DeMott (19242005) was professor of English and the Mellon professor of humanities at Amherst College. The author of two novels, he was best known for his cultural criticism in leading periodicals and in such books asThe Imperial Middle: Why Americans Can't Think Straight About Class and The Trouble with Friendship: Why Americans Can't Think Straight About Race.
Maeve Binchy (19402012) was the New York Times bestselling author ofQuentins, Scarlet Feather, Tara Road (an Oprah's Book Club Selection),Circle of Friends, Light a Penny Candle, and many other novels.