Fourteen-year-old Jerry David Madden of Knoxville submitted a one-act play in the 1950 statewide contest held jointly by the UT English Department and the Division of University Extension. The prize was having the play produced on campus, and Madden was one of four winners that year. He submitted another winning entry in a contest for UT students in 1955, a one-act play entitled Cassandra Singing, which he later expanded into a novel. Madden (“Jerry” at UT) graduated from UT in 1957. He earned the MA from San Francisco State and attended Yale Drama School on a John Golden Fellowship.
In 1961 his first novel, The Beautiful Greed, was published by Random House. Eight other novels have followed, of which two (Sharpshooter: A Novel of the Civil War  and The Suicide’s Wife ) have been nominated for Pulitzer Prizes. Bijou (1974) was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and The Suicide’s Wife was made into a CBS movie. He has also written collections of short stories, scholarly works on six genres and two writers, five books on creative writing and the novel, and more than a dozen textbooks.
He was in the Writer-in-Residence Program at Louisiana State University from 1968 to 1992, was director of the LSU Creative Writing Program from 1992 to 1994, served as the founding director of the United States Civil War Center at LSU from 1992 to 1999, and then was named Donald and Velvia Crumbley Professor of Creative Writing at LSU. He donated his papers to the UT Libraries in 2015.