NELSON ALGREN was born in 1909 in Detroit and lived mostly in Chicago. He was the author of five novels, including A Walk on the Wild Side which inspired the Lou Reed song of the same name, Somebody in Boots and Never Come Morning. He was also a prolific writer of short stories, essays, travelogues and poems. In 1949 The Man with the Golden Arm earned him the first American National Book Award.
His life was a succession of compulsive gambling, disastrous marriages and wild extremes – ranging from Texas prisons and skid-row soup-kitchens to Hollywood parties and literary celebrations. He also had a passionate love affair with French feminist Simone de Beauvoir while she was living with Jean-Paul Sartre.
Algren died in 1981, shortly after being appointed as a fellow of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.