This definitive biography reclaims Nelson Algren as a towering literary figure and exposes how his radical politics sabotaged his career
NEVER A LOVELY SO REAL
The Life and Work of Nelson Algren
by Colin Asher
Norton, April 2019
For a time, Nelson Algren (1909–1981) was America’s most famous author. Millions bought his books; “The Man with the Golden Arm”, winner of the first National Book Award, was made into a film starring Frank Sinatra. Yet the cause of Algren’s decline was never clear. Some said he drank his talent away, others cited writer’s block. The truth, hidden in the pages of his books, is far more complicated and tragic. In this magisterial biography—drawing from interviews, archived correspondence, and the first unredacted version of Algren’s FBI file—Colin Asher reestablishes Algren not only as a legendary figure, but a dramatic iconoclast. He recounts the author’s development as a thinker, his affair with Simone de Beauvoir, and his unapologetic left-leaning politics. Most intriguingly, Asher uncovers the true cause of Algren’s artistic exile: a reckless creative decision that led to increased FBI scrutiny and may have caused a mental breakdown.
Colin Asher is an award-winning writer whose work has been featured in the Believer, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle. An instructor at CUNY, he was a 2015/2016 Fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography.