Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Buy Used
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Minimal signs of wear. Ships direct from Amazon!
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Chas Addams: A Cartoonist's Life Hardcover – October 24, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

See all 5 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
$12.00 $0.01

The Numberlys Best Books of the Year So Far
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this buoyantly written first biography of Charles Addams, Davis dispels the myths surrounding the cartoonist and challenges facile assumptions that Addams was the archetype of his own creepy creations. Though fascinated by "the aberrations of life," he loved Aston Martins and Bugattis, cigars, drinking and beautiful women (he often dated famous ones, including Greta Garbo, Joan Fontaine and Jackie Kennedy). Addams—whose living room centerpiece was a draining device for corpses called a "drying out table"—gleefully perpetuated the myths surrounding him. He liked to imagine "that if he hadn't been a cartoonist, he might have been a criminal." However, a more sustained exploration of Cecil Beaton's comment that Addams's work "introduced a gothic element into daily life" would have added a deeper dimension to this portrait. Overall, it's more affectionate than critical, and never fully explains why Addams's work became so beloved or significant. Yet the book, which includes previously unpublished artwork, photographs and personal drawings, is sure to interest Addams fans and New Yorker history buffs. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Charles Addams eventually became famous for his morbid, mordantly witty New Yorker cartoons and the ghoulish, gothic family that appeared in them, and later a 1960s TV series and several movies. But as a struggling cartoonist in the 1930s, he was hardly the most original, or even the funniest, out there. As Davis shows in this well-researched valentine to Addams, some of his early cartoons were so run-of-the-mill that it's hard to believe he would soon develop a personal, highly eccentric, taboo-breaking style. Davis charts Addams' transformation from adequate apprentice to inspired master, tying the darkening of Addams' wit to events in his life: an army hitch, falling in and out of love, the failures of several marriages. At times it seems that Davis' strong love for Addams and his work forces her to soft-pedal the most problematic parts of his biography--Addams' darkest, often sadistic projections, as though from out of the national id, where did they come from? Still, all true fans will enjoy the multitude of facts Davis packs in. Jack Helbig
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (October 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679463259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679463252
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,087,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a fantastic biography of this mysterious man, this legendary cartoonist! It's about time someone explored fully the life of Charles Addams, father of "The Addams Family" and master of the macabre and bizarre cartoons from The New Yorker magazine. The tales from his odd childhood and woes of his wives (well, two of them) make for a terrific story here and Linda Davis has given Addams the proper send-up with this highly detailed and smartly written biography. (There are a few small pebbles in the shoe: for instance, The Addams Family television sitcom in the 60s was filmed, not "taped"...) But all in all, superb research and insight into this talented being with an eerie twist to him. The book makes you wish you'd met the man. There are ample illustrations inside, examples of Addams artwork, snapshots, diary entries, family photos, etc. Bravo!
Comment 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
Chas Addams [1912-1988], A Cartoonist's Life, Linda Davis; Random House (2006)

"She is one of that all-too-common breed that idolizes The New Yorker & is constantly reminding you of cartoons that appeared in it years ago, which she then proceeds to describe in detail (guffawing) & then "Oh, dear, if I could only remember the caption!" She also remembers everything I ever wrote, & quotes passages from it written by Max Shulman & Geoffrey Hellmann..."

--- S.J. Perelman, "The Selected Letters of..." (p. 117 .)

Not a waste of time, & informative; but Tom Kunkel, author of the great Harold Ross biography, is not even remotely in jeopardy of being eclipsed.

The artist infused with an abundance of charm needed a writer equally blessed with a warm sense of humor & wit - not an author with a compulsive need to describe each & every detail in his cartoons (particularly if the cartoon itself is on the opposite page).

She did do an excellent job of it in some respects. Her exposure of the frauds of his maniacal & manipulative 2nd wife, & the inane brain of the vain Joan Fountaine (one of his paramours), was first-rate.

But as with the anemic Fred Allen bio (by Robert Taylor), Davis never really got a feel for her subject until at the very end, in the chapters that describe a trip out to Connecticut taken by Addams (by now, in his mid-70s) & Frank Modell, only a few days before Addams passed away.

It also might have been the subject matter, Addams himself - something along the lines of, when astonished acquaintances of Cary Grant would discover what a remarkably un-debonair man he could be, in real life.
Read more ›
2 Comments 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
...of a man who just wanted to draw cartoons. Well, and tinker with fast cars and sleep with a lot of interesting women.

I'll not go into great detail here (that's what the book is for), but will say this is a wonderful, warm and often very funny look into the life of a man who's work has brought me great pleasure over the years. I readily admit that I had not thought a great deal about what Addams may have been like "in real life", but while I never would have expected him to be some sort of preverse variation on one of his cartoon creations, neither would I have expected a witty, charming, man-about-town with a knack for the ladies (if you will).

Mostly, though, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I simply enjoyed reading this book. Very heavily researched, the author seems to have spoken with just about everyone still alive who knew Addams and she presents him warts-and-all - it's just that his warts weren't terribly warty. While he was involved with a number of women over the years (and often for many years), he seems to have been that rare individual able to be essentially open and honest about it, perfectly happy for THEM to be involved as they wished, as well, and on good terms with them all, before, during and after. (The bizzarre relationship with his second wife both proves and provides the exception to this at the same time.)

In short - I enjoyed this read tremendously and, like most good biographies of basically nice people who have done interesting things, I felt a certain sadness at the end and for a day or so missed his company. (Spoiler alert: he dies.) It is a shame this doesn't appear to be in print any longer, but thankfully, it is recent enough to find reasonably priced copies floating around, including right here on this site. Recommended.
Comment One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
My dad and Charlie were in business during their undergraduate days at UPenn. Dad would go out and take orders and Charlie would draw custom Christmas "and other special occasion" cards. I thought this was pretty neat. Nearing his deathbed, my dad finally confessed the he'd go out and take very specific instructions, gather photos, descriptions, etc. and bring other sordid details back to Charlie, who would then draw "pornographic" cards based on those orders. That revelation got me looking at Wednesday in a whole new light! It was enjoyable to read that Charlie was like that all his life.
Comment 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
Who was Chas (Charles) Adams? While you won't know by the time you finish this revealing biography, you'll certainly expand beyond the line sketch you probably have now of his life. If you are a New Yorker fan, you'll know him from his hundreds of cartoons and dozens of covers that expressed a most unique and other worldly perspective. If you are a fan of celebrities, you may know more about him as someone who drove classic cars, dated high-profile women, and favored allusions to death and dying. If you are a classic television fan, you'll know that his cartoon characters were the foundation for The Addams Family. If you favor camp, you know about his armor collection, his preferences for cross-bows, and other lethal items which he liked to display in public.

The biography also reveals a kindly man who was patient with everyone, including those he didn't particularly like. You'll also learn of his fascination with the Morticia appearance (based on having married two women who met the bill). More surprisingly, you'll find him to have been victimized by his second wife . . . even long after they were no longer married. The book also portrays a heterosexual version of Truman Capote who fascinated many of the most desirable women.

Most pleasingly, Ms. Davis does a delightful job of portraying the development of his cartooning style and art . . . including dozens of prime examples that are well reproduced. Even when there's no reproduction, Ms. Davis is good at capturing the essence of an image in a few words. She also provides a history of 20th century New Yorker cartooning, including how many of the final cartoons represented the influences of many people other than the artist who signed the final version.
Read more ›
Comment 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews