The author of five novels and one short story collection, Speer Morgan is a professor and editor for The Missouri Review. Many of Morgan’s novels are set in Arkansas, including The Freshour Cylinders (1998), which won Foreword Magazine’s Silver Award for the best book of the year and an American Book Award in 1999.
His parents were Charles Donald and Betty (Speer) Morgan. Morgan attended the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, from 1964 to 1966, as well as the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he received a BA in 1968. He received a PhD in 1972 from Stanford University.
Morgan was assistant professor at the University of Missouri—Columbia from 1972 to 1978, was associate professor beginning in 1978, and is currently a professor of English and editor of The Missouri Review. He also taught at the Moberly Area Junior College (a men’s correctional facility) in 1977 and was a member of the literature panel for the National Endowment for the Arts from 1975 to 1979.
While at Stanford doing graduate work, Morgan started seriously writing fiction and writing book reviews for Rolling Stone. His early fiction was collected in Frog Gig and Other Stories in 1976. His first novel, Belle Starr, followed in 1979. It was set in Arkansas and the Indian Territory during the late 1800s. Whipping Boy, which is set in the late 1800s in Oklahoma Territory, follows Tom Freshour, a mixed-blood orphan, and its sequel, The Freshour Cylinders, is set in Depression-era Fort Smith, near the Oklahoma border. The Assemblers, a high-tech thriller, is also set in Arkansas.
Morgan has won several awards, including the Best Story of the Year award from Prairie Schooner in 1978, for “Internal Combustion.” He was a fiction fellow for the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994. He won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 1999 for The Freshour Cylinders and a Lawrence Foundation Prize in 2000 for “The Girl.” His story “The Big Bang" received the Goodheart Prize for Shenandoah’s best story of 2008. Morgan has contributed short stories to several other magazines and journals, including Harper’s, the Atlantic Monthly, Northwest Review, New Letters, River Styx, and Iowa Review.
Morgan has been editor-in-chief of The Missouri Review, a well-known literary journal, since 1980. He also co-edited of The Best of the Missouri Review (University of Missouri Press, 1991) and For Our Beloved Country: Diaries of Americans in War (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1993).
Morgan has been a visiting writer at the University of Texas, the University of Arkansas, and the Paris Writers Workshop. He currently lives in Columbia, Missouri, with his wife Kristine, a writer and teacher.
During Morgan's editorship The Missouri Review has published early writing by over a hundred authors, including Daniel Woodrell, Susan Vreeland, Joanna Scott, and Raymond Carver. It has also published work by well-known fiction writers such as Paul Bowles, Robert Olen Butler, Naguib Mahfouz, Gregory Rabassa, Philip K. Dick, Ursula LeGuin, Russell Banks, Henry Green, and Fred Chappell. Poets have included such names as Pattiann Rogers, Miller Williams, Robert Bly, Andrew Hudgins, Stephen Dunn, Marilyn Hacker, T.R. Hummer, and Dave Smith.
TMR’s interview series has been notable, including Annie Proulx, Edmund White, Ernest J. Gaines, John Edgar Wideman, John Updike, Larry Brown, Li-Young Lee, Linda Hogan, Margaret Walker, Mario Vargas Llosa, Peter Matthiessen, Richard Ford, Robb Forman Dew, Rosellen Brown, Stanislaw Lem, and William Maxwell, and many others.
Morgan established the “found text” and “history as literature” series, consisting of previously unpublished writing of literary or historical note. These have included formerly unpublished letters and fiction by writers such as Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Tennessee Williams, a Trail of Tears diary by Choctaw Chief Peter Pitchlynn, and letters concerning the crisis and downfall of Robert Morris, financier of the American Revolution.
In the mid 1980s, Morgan established TMR Online on a commercial site called The Source, making it the first magazine in the world to have an online site. Since the development of the Internet in the 1990s, TMR has regularly refurbished and updated its site. Beginning in 2010, approximately 15% of its subscribers receive their subscriptions via a web-based service called Texterity. It is also distributed to 2000 libraries worldwide through Project Muse at Johns Hopkins.