Although Gwen Bristow was neither born in Alabama nor died there, she had very close Alabama connections. While her father was serving as minister of a Baptist church in Selma, she enrolled at Judson College. She graduated in 1924 with a double major in English and French.
After beginning her writing career by reporting junior high functions for her hometown newspaper, she continued writing for school papers through high school. She turned to play writing during her senior year and continued in that medium while a student at Judson, where several of her plays were presented.
Following graduation from Judson, she spent a year studying at the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York City. She earned money typing theses, writing biographies for trade journals, and working as a secretary.
From Columbia, she went to work on the New Orleans Times-Picayune as a reporter. Her future husband, Bruce Manning from New York, was working for a rival newspaper, the Item. They were married a year later. A facetious scheme to get rid of a neighbor whose raucous radio disturbed them day and night led to the publication of their first book, The Invisible Host. Owen Davis made the tale of murder into a play, and the movie The Ninth Guest was based on the same story.
The couple continued to write and to work intermittently for the newspaper until they moved to Connecticut, where Manning wrote stories for screen and radio scripts and Bristow continued to write.
When Manning was offered a job in Hollywood, the couple moved there. After serving a term as a California homemaker, Bristow began a novel about Louisiana, the first of a trilogy that carried two families from pre-Revolutionary days to World War I: Deep Summer, Handsome Road, and This Side of Glory. All three novels, published in the 1930's, became bestsellers. Other successes followed - Tomorrow Is Forever, Celia Garth, and Jubilee Trail, both of which were made into movies. Bristow's novels were translated into a dozen different languages, and several of her books are in print today.
Having established herself as a versatile and prolific writer, Bristow earned a place in such biographical and critical works as Current Biography, Contemporary Authors, Atlantic Monthly, Times Literary Supplement, New York Times Book Review, Who's Who in America, and Who's Who of American Women.
Alabama Women's Hall of Fame