Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Nelson Algren  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Non-Fiction & Poetry

Audience: Adult;

Born: March 28, 1909 in Detroit, Michigan

Died: May 9, 1981 in Long Island, New York

-- The Nelson Algren Committee --
-- Wikipedia --
-- Nelson Algren on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Algren lived and worked in Chicago between 1939 and 1970.

Biographical and Professional Information

Nelson Algren was born in Detroit and died in New York but spent the better part of his life his childhood through his most productive writing years in Chicago. He was a novelist and short story writer who was once called the "Poet of the Chicago Slums." He combined subjects drawn from street life with an eloquent, poetic style in a series of novels ans short stories, many of which were in Chicago's Polish communities. His early books include ''Somebody in Boots'' (1935), ''Never Come Morning'' (1942) and the short-story collection, ''The Neon Wilderness'' (1947). ''The Man with a Golden Arm'' (1949) was a great popular success and became a successful Hollywood film starring Frank Sinatra in 1956. ''A Walk on the Wild Side'' (1956) was also filmed in 1962. Algren also wrote the prose poem ''Chicago: City on the Make'' (1951).

Published Works

  • Somebody in Boots, Vanguard, 1935
  • Never Come Morning, Harper, 1942
  • The Neon Wilderness, Doubleday, 1947
  • The Man with the Golden Arm, Doubleday, 1949
  • Chicago, City on the Make, Doubleday, 1951
  • A Walk on the Wild Side, Farrar Strauss, 1956
  • Nelson Algren's Own Book of Lonesome Monsters, Lancer Books, 1962
  • Notes from a Sea Diary-Hemingway All the Way, Putnam, 1965
  • Who Lost an American, Macmillan, 1963
  • The Last Carousel, Putnam, 1973
  • The Devil's Stockings, Arbor House Library of Contemporary Americana, 1983
  • America Eats, University of Iowa Press, 2000
  • Nonconformity: Writings on Writing, Seven Stories Press, 1994
  • The Texas Stories of Nelson Algren, University of Texas Press,

Selected Titles At Your Library

Somebody in boots :
ISBN: 0938410407. OCLC Number:

Thunder's Mouth Press :. New York :. ©1987.

Never come morning /
ISBN: 1583222790. OCLC Number:

. .

"Bruno Bicek, Lefty, is a prizefighter and small-time hood in Chicago. Boxing is his ticket to escape hard times and gang life, but when Bruno doesn't prevent the brutal gang rape of his girlfriend, Steffi, it tears them apart, their worlds changed forever. Bruno is sent to jail and Steffi to a brothel governed by the brutality of a local crime boss, The Barber. Sinister and dark, The Barber controls Steffi and has no intention of letting her go. Why should he, when he holds all the cards? Bruno and Steffi, who dream of breaking free, learn this in the end and find that for them there will be no bright morning." --

The neon wilderness /
ISBN: 0844610143. OCLC Number:

Doubleday,. Garden City, N.Y. :. 1947.

The man with the golden arm /
ISBN: 1583220089. OCLC Number:

Seven Stories Press ;. New York :. [1999]

Critical essays accompany the story of gambler Frankie Machine as he struggles to stay alive amid the corruption and drug addiction of Chicago's slums and underworld.

Chicago, city on the make /
ISBN: 0070010129. OCLC Number:

McGraw-Hill,. New York :. 1983.

A walk on the wild side /
ISBN: 0374525323. OCLC Number:

Penguin Books,. New York :. 1977, ©1956.

Algren at sea :
ISBN: 1583228411. OCLC Number:

Seven Stories Press,. New York :. ©2008.

The last carousel /
ISBN: 1888363452. OCLC Number:

Seven Stories Press,. New York :. 1997.

The devil's stocking /
ISBN: 1583226990. OCLC Number:

. .

The Devil's Stocking is the story of Ruby Calhoun, a boxer accused of murder in a shadowy world of low-purse fighters, cops, con artists, and bar girls. Chronicling a battle for truth and human dignity which gives way to a larger story of life and death decisions, literary grandmaster Nelson Algren's last novel is a fitting capstone to a long and brilliant career.-Back cover.

America eats /
ISBN: 0877453616. OCLC Number:

University of Iowa Press,. Iowa City :. ©1992.

Nonconformity :
ISBN: 1888363053. OCLC Number:

Seven Stories Press,. New York :. ©1996.

In Nonconformity, Algren identifies the essential nature of the writer's relation to society, drawing examples from Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Twain, and Fitzgerald, as well as utility infielder Leo Durocher and legendary barkeep Martin Dooley. He shares his deepest beliefs about the state of literature and its role in society, along the way painting a chilling portrait of the early 1950s, Joe McCarthy's heyday, when many American writers were blacklisted and ruined for saying similar things to what Algren is saying here.

The Texas stories of Nelson Algren /
ISBN: 0292704682. OCLC Number:

University of Texas Press,. Austin :. 1995.

Twelve stories on the author's hobo days in Texas where he searched for work during the 1930s depression and was jailed for stealing. In one story he writes, "God help you if you run and God help you if you fight; God help you if you're broke and God help you if you're black."


In 1990, his name was engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures. 1950 National Book Award Winner for Fiction -

The Man With the Golden Arm

1957 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction -

Walk on the Wild Side