Charles Gaines

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Charles Latham Gaines, Jr (born January 6, 1942 in Jacksonville, Florida) is a writer and outdoorsman, notable as the author of Stay Hungry and Pumping Iron, both adapted into feature films, and as a co-developer of the sport of paintball.

Gaines is the son of Charles Latham and Margaret Shook Gaines. His family moved to Birmingham when he was ten years old. As a teenager, he became interested in bodybuilding. He enrolled briefly at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia in 1960 but dropped out. He received his bachelor's degree at Birmingham-Southern College in 1963 and a master of fine arts in writing at the University of Iowa in 1967. After graduating he directed a federal program to introduce arts into public schools in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He then moved to New Hampshire and took a teaching post at New England College.

Gaines' first novel, Stay Hungry, was published by Doubleday in 1972. The novel is set in Birmingham and prominently features the bodybuilding culture that Gaines had explored as a teenager. He followed up in 1974 with the essay "Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding", illustrated with photographs by George Butler. The essay was the first to document the practical and philosophical foundations of bodybuilding as a competitive sport and remains a popular and important work in that field.

With Gaines as co-screenwriter, Stay Hungry was adapted into a feature film in 1975, starring Jeff Bridges, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sally Field. Butler gathered footage of the 1975 Mr Universe and Mr Olympia contests, and he and Gaines adapted Pumping Iron as a documentary feature in 1977. The two films helped to establish Schwarzenegger as a national celebrity. Gaines also wrote for the television series "The American Sportsman" and adapted Edith Wharton's story "Summer" for the PBS program "Great Performances".

After returning home from a hunting safari in 1976, Gaines and his friend Bob Gurnsey brainstormed a recreational sport based in part on Richard Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game". They organized a 12-man game using Nel-Spot tree-marking guns. Gurnsey and Gaines went on to found the National Survival Game Company, the first to market paintball equipment for recreational use.

Gaines has continued to write on bodybuilding topics, and has co-authored fitness books for children with Schwarzenegger, but has also chronicled sport fishing, survival games and other outdoor activities in his novels and non-fiction works. He currently teaches part time at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Gaines was inducted into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame in 2018, and given the Truman Capote Award by the Alabama Writer's Forum in 2020.

Gaines married artist Patricia Ellisor on June 20, 1963, and has three children: actor Latham, musician Greta, and music producer Shelby.


  • Gaines, Charles L. (1972) Stay Hungry. Doubleday
  • Gaines, Charles L. (1974) Pumping Iron. Simon and Schuster
  • Gaines, Charles L. (1975) Staying Hard. Simon and Schuster
  • Gaines, Charles L. (1976) Dangler. Keiran Press
  • Gaines, Charles L. and Charles P. Roman (1982) Yours in Perfect Manhood, Charles Atlas: the Most Effective Fitness Program Ever Devised. Simon and Schuster
  • Gaines, Charles L. (1984) Pumping Iron II: The Unprecedented Woman. Simon and Schuster
  • Gaines, Charles L. (1984) Sportselection. Viking Press
  • Gaines, Charles L. (1986) Staying Hard: The Only Exercise Book You Will Ever Need
  • Gaines, Charles L. (1995) A Family Place: A Man Returns to the Center of His Life. Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Gaines, Charles L. (1997) Survival Games. Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Gaines, Charles L. (2000) The Next Valley Over: An Angler's Progress. Crown Publishers
  • Gaines, Charles L. and Monte Burke (2001) Leaper: The Wonderful World of Atlantic Salmon Fishing. Lyons Press