J.C. Hallman

Tulsa, Oklahoma

John Christopher Hallman, known professionally as J.C. Hallman, is a critically acclaimed American author of both fiction and nonfiction. He has published seven books, as well as multiple essays and short stories in noteworthy periodicals such as GQ, Harper’s, and The New Republic. J.C. Hallman is particularly known for his work in the nonfiction genres of memoir, history, journalism, and travelogue.

Early life

John Christopher Hallman spent the formative years of his life in Southern California. Somewhere between the ages of 12-13, he decided he wanted to become a professional writer, a goal that was further solidified after he stumbled across a quotation from Benjamin Franklin that particularly resonated with him: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.”

Hallman earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania before going on to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, an institution that had a profound effect on his relationship with the written word, and that he would later describe as “the best writing school the world has ever known.” He was one of the youngest applicants ever admitted. Later, he would study creative writing at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

In the mid-1990s, John Christopher Hallman was employed as a croupier, or table game dealer, in Atlantic City, New Jersey for a period of five years. During this time, a close friend of his committed suicide, which Hallman would later detail in an essay called “Getting to the End” that was published by Harper’s in 2015.


At the outset of his career, J.C. Hallman set about creating a very specific condition under which he felt would best thrive; that of sinking or swimming in the pursuit of his goal of becoming a professional writer. Regarding this decision, he has been quoted as saying, “At that time, and ever since, my career has been characterized by refusing to use the ‘safety net’ of a fallback career, and of choosing to invest in my imagination at every opportunity.”

Hallman would kick off his writing career by publishing some work that he produced when he was between the ages of 20-21 years old. He sold his first book, The Chess Artist: Genius, Obsession, and the World’s Oldest Game, approximately a decade after that. The book was well-reviewed by The Boston Globe and The Arizona Republic, with The Republic calling it “a chess book like no other, irreverent, insightful, and funny.”

Three years later, J.C. Hallman’s sophomore novel, The Devil is a Gentleman, was published. He followed this with a collection of short stories called The Hospital for Bad Poets in 2009, and a nonfiction travelogue called In Utopia: Six Kinds of Eden and the Search for a Better Paradise in 2010. In 2013, he wrote a detailed biographical account of the relationship between two brothers, each of whom happened to be historical figures, titled Wm & H’ry: Literature, Love, and the Letters of William and Henry James. J.C. Hallman’s sixth book, B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal was published in 2015. Styled as a memoir about love, reading, and the work of Nicholson Baker, B & Me is generally thought to be an effective example of a genre called ‘creative criticism’. His most recent effort, Say Anarcha: A Young Woman, a Devious Surgeon, and the Harrowing Birth of Modern Women’s Health made its debut in 2023, greeted by commendations from media outlets such as The New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly. In it, he explores the life of Anarcha Westcott, an enslaved woman who was the subject of medical experiments conducted by a controversial surgeon during the 1800s.

Although he has received many accolades from critics and won several prestigious literary prizes over the course of his career, Hallman remains stoic in the face of praise. Once posed a question about how he measures his personal and professional goals, he responded, “I once received a fan letter from a man in prison—he told me that he was managing to endure his time in prison—he’d robbed a bank; no one got hurt—by reading my first book, The Chess Artist, over and over. I don’t know that I will ever achieve a personal or professional goal that exceeds the pride I took in that.” More to the point, J.C. Hallman once described the true highlights of his literary life as “the quiet, lonely moments when I write a sentence that I believe twists language in a wholly new, wholly unique way. I remember those moments most.”

Net Worth



Writing and publishing his first book The Chess Artist: Genius, Obsession, and the World’s Oldest Game.
Receiving the Pushcart Prize for his short story “Ethan: A Love Story”.
Receiving the McKnight Artist Fellowship Award in fiction.
Receiving the John Simon Guggenheim Prize for general nonfiction.
Receiving a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship for his book Say Anarcha.