Just One Catch (Hardcover)

A Biography of Joseph Heller

By Tracy Daugherty

St. Martin's Press, 9780312596859, 560pp.

Publication Date: August 2, 2011

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (4/9/2019)
Hardcover (9/1/2011)

List Price: 35.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


In time for the 50th anniversary of Catch-22, Tracy Daugherty, the critically acclaimed author of Hiding Man (a New Yorker and New York Times Notable book), illuminates his most vital subject yet in this first biography of Joseph Heller. Joseph Heller was a Coney Island kid, the son of Russian immigrants, who went on to great fame and fortune. His most memorable novel took its inspiration from a mission he flew over France in WWII (his plane was filled with so much shrapnel it was a wonder it stayed in the air). Heller wrote seven novels, all of which remain in print. Something Happened and Good as Gold, to name two, are still considered the epitome of satire. His life was filled with women and romantic indiscretions, but he was perhaps more famous for his friendships—he counted Mel Brooks, Zero Mostel, Carl Reiner, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, Mario Puzo, Dustin Hoffman, Woody Allen, and many others among his confidantes. In 1981 Heller was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a debilitating syndrome that could have cost him his life. Miraculously, he recovered. When he passed away in 1999 from natural causes, he left behind a body of work that continues to sell hundreds of thousands of copies a year.

Just One Catch is the first biography of Yossarian’s creator.

About the Author

TRACY DAUGHERTY is the author of four novels, four short story collections, and a book of personal essays. His critically acclaimed biography of Donald Barthelme, "HIDING MAN" was published in 2009. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Currently, he is Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at Oregon State University.

Praise For Just One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller

"Daugherty's Just One Catch sets out the markers of Heller's life clearly enough, putting the biographical facts in order in one simple volume . . . the first biography of Heller and a decent starting point."—Los Angeles Times
"Tracy Daugherty's Just One Catch is a large literary biography, rich with anecdote, and full of dirt that only an aspiring author would love. The story of how the sketches of "Catch-18" became Catch-22, of how Heller's agent and publisher secured the book, of how it took him eight years to finish it, and of how it eventually made him rich and famous are so compellingly written as to be porn for the unpublished."—San Francisco Chronicle 

"There's no catch. Tracy Daugherty has written a generous, smart and comprehensive biography of a 21st Century American master. "—Gary Shteyngart

"Just One Catch is a truly smart and compelling biography of a major American writer. Joseph Heller wrote our greatest war novel and made a lasting contribution to the idiom, but he was also a singular figure through decades of cultural transformation. Tracy Daughtery deftly situates Heller's role in the American saga while never losing sight of the man, his grand literary quest, his huge personality, his politics, his passions, his weaknesses and kindnesses, his appetites.”—Sam Lipsyte

Just One Catch is not only an intricate and compassionate portrait of its subject, but also an absorbing account of the genesis of the novel that irrevocably transformed mid-20th century American discourse.  And even more than that, it’s a revelatory and moving social history: a reminder of a now-vanished culture in which the literary and the political informed one another in the most crucial and formative ways.”—Jim Shepard

“In addition to chronicling the life of an iconic American novelist, it also provides a kind of literary equivalent to TV's Mad Men, pulling the reader into a world that eerily replicates our own, even as we thought we'd left that world long ago.  The pleasure of reading this biography is in Daugherty's ability to both frighten and reassure us that history does indeed repeat itself.  Which information is a real catch 22.”—Antonya Nelson

"Catch-22 is the great comic American novel of the 20th century.  Tracy Daugherty has given us a biography worthy of its author.  A major achievement, or should I say major major major?"—Christopher Buckley

"Just One Catch has countless insightful, amusing anecdotes from Heller’s childhood, military service and postpublication notoriety as a celebrated literary figure. But the writing, publishing and ensuing aftermath of Catch-22 is the clear focal point of Daugherty’s book."—Time Out 

“A masterful, wonderfully thought-provoking biography about one of America’s greatest contributors to 20th century literature. Both touching and illuminating, this is that rare biography worthy of its source material.”—Stan Lee "Daugherty's groundbreaking portrait of the prophetic, contradictory, and essential Joseph Heller is dramatic and revelatory." —Booklist, (starred review)  "A breezy, entertaining, and well-researched biography worthy in tone and scope of his subject."—Publishers Weekly, (starred review)