Shelby Foote became known to millions of Americans when he appeared on the PBS documentary series, The Civil War, but he had long enjoyed a great reputation among readers as a novelist, and as the author of a three-volume narrative history of the Civil War, the fruit of 20 years toil and a lifetime of study.
Raised by his widowed mother in Greenville, Mississippi, he began writing fiction while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He published his first short story a year after leaving the service and became a full-time writer. Disdaining modern conveniences, he wrote his books in longhand with pen and inkwell. Shelby Foote did not welcome the notoriety his television appearances brought him; he continued to live and work in seclusion in Memphis, Tennessee until the end of his life.