Nelson Algren (Nelson Algren)

Nelson Algren

Author. Born Nelson Ahlgren Abraham in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of three, he moved to the South Side of Chicago, Illinois and when he was eight, the family moved to the North Side. He graduated from what is now known as Roosevelt High School, then attended The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received a Bachelor of Science in journalism in 1931. In 1933, while in Texas, working at a gas station, he wrote his first story, “So Help Me”. After stealing a typewriter from an abandoned classroom, he was caught and spent nearly five months in jail. This experience led him to identify with the human “failures” about whom he later wrote,  a world of “drunks, pimps, prostitutes, freaks, drug addicts, prize fighters, corrupt politicians, and hoodlums”. His first novel, “Somebody in Boots”, was published in 1935. “Never Come Morning” (1942) portrayed the dead-end life of a doomed young criminal. World War II found Algren in the European Theater as a litter bearer with the rank of Private.  He is probably best known for his 1950 National Book Award-winning “The Man With the Golden Arm”. His next book, “Chicago, City on the Make” (1951), was a scathing essay that outraged the city’s boosters but beautifully presented the back alleys of the town, its dispossessed, its corrupt politicians and its swindlers. In 1975, Algren was commissioned to write a magazine article about the trial of Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, the prize fighter who had been found guilty of double murder. The article about Carter grew into a novel, “The Devil’s Stocking”, which was published posthumously in 1983. Upon researching the article about Carter, he visited Carter’s hometown of Paterson, New Jersey and decided to move there in 1975.  In 1980 Algren moved into a house on Long Island. He died of a heart attack the following year. Other works, also published posthumously, include “Nonconformity” (1994),  “America Eats” (1992), “He Swung and He Missed” (1993), and “The Texas Stories of Nelson Algren” (1994). (bio by: H M G)


  • March, 28, 1909
  • USA


  • May, 05, 1981
  • USA


  • Oakland Cemetery
  • USA

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