Blake Morrison visits Agee's hometown in Tennessee and follows in his footsteps to Alabama to re-appraise this 'sovereign prince of the English language'.
He was described as 'probably the most charismatic man alive', looked like James Dean, lived hard and was dead by the age of 45.
His account of the lives of poor white farmers in 1930s Alabama, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, is an exquisitely difficult classic, his film criticism set the standard in 1940s America, and his posthumously published novel, A Death in the Family, won the Pulitzer Prize.
So why is the work of James Agee so little known here?
With contributions from Agee's children and biographers.