Born in 1941 in
Hannibal, Ron Powers is a
prize-winning journalist, novelist,
and non-fiction writer.
has been influential in much of
Our community is the subject
of his book White Town Drowsing:
Journeys to Hannibal, it is the
location of the two true-life murders
that are the subject of Powers’ Tom
and Huck Don't Live Here Anymore,
and it was the home of Mark Twain.
Powers has written extensively
about Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens,
including two books entitled Dangerous
Water: A Biography of the Boy Who
Became Mark Twain, and Mark
Twain: A Life.
He also co-authored Flags
of Our Fathers with James
He resides in
(Biographical information from
Twain: A Life
Powers uses different names,
Sammy, Samuel, and Mark Twain, do
you understand him to be talking
about Samuel Clemens at different
times in his life?
Is Powers describing a
divided man as other biographers
Powers adequately explain the
meaning of “mark twain” in
river parlance (two fathoms or
the difference between safe and
dangerous water) and as a
pseudonym that Samuel Clemens
selected for his writing?
does Powers show the formation of
Twain’s attitudes about Native
Americans and African Americans?
Why does Powers avoid
portraying Twain as a racist?
you agree with the way Powers
handles some of the more unpleasant
parts of Twain’s character,
like his drinking and gambling
too much, and his temper?
an interview on “Think
Tank with Ben Wattenberg,”
Ron Powers describes Twain’s time
on the river as “…one of the
enchanted moments of American
history, the steamboat age.”
How much of Twain’s life
experience do you think happened
because the places where he was
at the times in which he lived?
Think about his growing up
in Hannibal in the 1830’s and
1840’s, becoming a steamboat
captain just before the Civil
War, going West, writing and
publishing in the late 19th
You can find the
transcripts of the interview on
“Think Tank with Ben
Wattenberg” at http://www.pbs.org/thinktank/transcript1217.html#TOP
Twain was a storyteller, and Ron
Powers tells the story of
What is your favorite part
of story, whether fictionalized
by Mark Twain or part of the
biography by Ron Powers?
characteristics would a Mark
Twain/Samuel Clemens of our times
have to have? Does anyone come to
you agree with the review of Mark
Twain: A Life by Ron Powers
in the San Francisco Chronicle?
The reviewer’s comments
state, "An impressive
achievement...This book earns an
honored place on the shelf of
essential works on Mark
Twain...Ron Powers has done
justice to an incomparably
complex, rich, fruitful, and
tangled life, and along the way
he has granted us a glimpse into
the heart of America, as well as
the heart of America's greatest
you learn anything new about Mark
Twain from this book?
Were all the photos
Powers is also a native of
Hannibal, Missouri. Would he be as
persuasive a biographer of Mark
Twain if he had grown up
Why or why not?