Nelson Algren was born in 1909 in Detroit and lived mostly in Chicago. His published works 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 1950 The Man with the Golden Arm earned him the first American National Book Award.
His life was a succession of gambling problems, 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.
Algren died in 1981, shortly after being appointed as a fellow of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.