Nelson Algren was born in 1909 in Detroit and lived mostly in Chicago. 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. He also had a passionate love affair with French feminist Simone de Beauvoir while she was living with Jean-Paul Sartre.
Algren received the inaugural National Book Award for The Man with the Golden Arm. He died in 1981, shortly after being appointed as a fellow of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.