Berkeley author T.J. Stiles won his second Pulitzer Prize for biography this week for his most recent book, Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, about General George Custer, the Civil War veteran who famously met his demise at the battle of the Little Big Horn.
"I am utterly flabbergasted by a second Pulitzer Prize," the author wrote on his Facebook page. "I am ecstatic, and grateful, and cannot thank enough my editor, Jonathan Segal, and the incredible publishing house of Alfred A. Knopf."
Stiles has written two other books besides Custer's Trials and his second book, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt earned him his first Pulitzer Prize back in 2010 as well as the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2009. His first book, Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War, won the Ambassador Book Award and the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship, and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
Born and raised in a small farm town in Minnesota, Stiles moved to Berkeley in 2006 and married his now wife the following year.
In an interview with the Daily Californian, the UC Berkeley student-run newspaper, Stiles said that it took him six years to research and write the biography. The book concentrates on the contradictions between the man, who struggled with adapting to "the emerging modern world," and the myth that was created after his death, thanks in part to his loyal wife.
“He was an extraordinarily vivid, contradictory personality who documented his inner life with remarkable thoroughness,” Stiles told the Daily Cal.
Listen to T.J. Stiles discuss Custer's life on KQED's Forum back in December of last year: