A spectacular beginning: three novels between 1920 and 1925, plus a prodigious number of stories and other short pieces, a celebrity marriage, a mode of life that is still a byword for glamour. No wonder that, in spite of disappointment at poor sales of The Great Gatsby, published in April 1925, the 28-year-old Fitzgerald had the confidence to write to H. L. Mencken in May, ‘I expect to spend about two years on my next novel and it ought to be more successful critically’ (Life in Letters III). The projected novel was not what became Tender Is the Night, but an early version with a plot revolving around matricide. To the disappointment of his publisher, his public, and, principally, himself, no novel would appear until 1934.
The unsettled and self-destructive years between 1925 and 1934 were, paradoxically, among the most professionally successful of Fitzgerald's life, and saw the steady publication of short stories that comprise not only much of Fitzgerald's best, and best-paid, writing, but some of the best of the century. Novel or no novel, Fitzgerald was still a writer writing. As the results show, he was on top of his game. To dismiss this period, as Matthew Bruccoli does, as ‘The Drunkard's Holiday’ (Epic Grandeur 261–372), or to characterize its literary output as ‘fugitive magazine pieces’, as J. Gerald Kennedy seems to (118), is unfair to what was a monumental achievement by any measure, more than sixty stories.