AustLit logo
Charles Nordhoff (International) assertion Charles Nordhoff i(A24083 works by)
Born: Established: 1 Feb 1887 London,
United Kingdom (UK),
Western Europe, Europe,
; Died: Ceased: 11 Apr 1947 California,
United States of America (USA),

Gender: Male
Visitor assertion Arrived in Australia: 1930-1935
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


Charles Nordhoff, an American citizen, was born in London where his father was a correspondent for the New York Times, but lived on ranches owned by his parents in California and Mexico from the age of three. He was educated at Harvard University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1909. After working on a Mexican sugar plantation and in a Californian company, Nordhoff joined the French Ambulance Corps in 1916 and successively the French Foreign Legion and the Lafayette Flying Corps. He transferred to the U.S. Air Service when the United States entered World War I. His writing career was launched when his mother had his letters home published in the Atlantic Monthly as 'true-life war tales'. In 1919 they were published as The Fledgling. Coincidentally the wartime essays of James Norman Hall (q.v.) appeared in the same issue of the Atlantic Monthly; both men were known to each other and by the end of the war were decorated pilots and writers.

This was the beginning of a thirty-year collaboration in action tales and adventure novels which culminated in their legendary trilogy: Mutiny on the Bounty (1932), Men Against the Sea (1934) and Pitcairn's Island (1935). A tremendous success with the American public with their themes of courage, greed and man against nature, the first part of the trilogy was immortalised in the Hollywood film, Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). Disllusioned with civilization Nordhoff and Hall had sailed to Tahiti in 1921. Nordhoff was to stay and sire seven children by a Tahitian wife and a Tahitian mistress before he returned to California. The last decade of his life was blighted by ill health brought on by alcohol abuse.

Nordhoff collaborated on six more novels after the Bligh trilogy, but Botany Bay (1942) was to be their last true collaboration. Nordhoff visited Sydney to research the novel and wrote the even-numbered chapters. Both authors had visited Australia during their research for the Bligh trilogy (All About Books, August 1936: 127). Mary M. Lay (1981) argues that 'Although they shared the writing, Nordhoff deferred more and more to Hall's judgment.' Nordhoff's novels and those he co-wrote with Hall were very successful with readers; many were serialised in the Saturday Evening Post. As Lay concludes: 'The history of the Nordhoff-Hall collaboration represents a search for and discovery of a successful narrative technique: a deceptively simple, fast-paced method of storytelling.'

(Source: Adapted from 'Nordhoff, Charles Bernard', Contemporary Authors 211 (2003): 308-310; Mary M. Lay, 'Charles Nordhoff', Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 9: American Novelists, 1910-1945. ed. James J. Martine (1981) 242-248; William H. Wilde, Joy Hooton, and Barry Andrews The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, Oxford University Press (1994): 582.

Most Referenced Works

Known archival holdings

Albinski 169
Last amended 17 Apr 2008 14:00:24
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: