Clark then wrote River of the West, a chronicle of the Columbia River and his adopted home in the Pacific Northwest. The Los Angeles Times called it “a sad, haunting retelling [and] a poignant series of narratives…about disillusionment and tragedy and the incantatory power of nature”.
Turning away from creative non-fiction, he wrote his first novel In the Deep Midwinter, which Dan Cryer of Newsday said marked Clark “immediately [as] a novelist of consequence”. Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post summed up, “It has been a long time since the last American novel of such compassion, intelligence, and maturity.”
Clark’s next novel, Mr. White’s Confession, blended literary fiction with 1930s noir detective story and garnered a feature review by Greil Marcus in Esquire, among other national publications. It won the Edgar Award for Best Novel as well as the PNBA Award and was optioned as a motion picture by James B. Harris, producer and collaborator of the late Stanley Kubrick. Subsequently, Clark returned to creative non-fiction with My Grandfather’s House, a memoir The New York Times called “compelling” and which was named a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Award in biography.
His next novel, Love Among the Ruins, was a return to the locale of his previous fiction. Praised by critics and reviewers as a haunting portrayal of love in youth and middle age as well as the psychological and social upheavals of the 1960s, it was a double BookSense 76 pick in both hardcover and paper (Vintage). His fourth novel, Lives of the Artists (“adroit, amusing, and delightful”, said The Vancouver Sun), was published in May 2005 by HarperCollins Canada.
In 2005 and 2006 he was a Guggenheim fellow in Italy and wrote Dark Water: Flood and Redemption in the City of Masterpieces. Library Journal said “Clark uses this riveting story to meditate on the communion that exists between artist and viewer and on the mortality of even the greatest art… [an] exceptional work of popular history [that] succeeds on all counts”. “Clark’s stories of the flood are the stuff of thrilling documentaries”, said The Washington Post while The Economist noted that “Mr. Clark, a novelist, tells an enthralling true story in a way that makes it read like a novel”. In 2009, Dark Water won the Washington State Book Award.
Robert Clark now lives in New York City. He teaches in the MFA program at Seattle Pacific University and at conferences and workshops. His essays and reviews have appeared in Conjunctions, The Antioch Review, Image, Ploughshares, and The Washington Post. His newest book is the memoir My Victorians: Lost in the Nineteenth Century, a book of lyric reflections on Victorian writers and artists.