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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

To celebrate his birthday, take 30% off all books written by or about Nelson Algren!

One of the most neglected American writers and also one of the best loved, NELSON ALGREN wrote once that “literature is made upon any occasion that a challenge is put to the legal apparatus by conscience in touch with humanity.” His writings always lived up to that definition.

He was born on March 28, 1909, in Detroit and lived mostly in Chicago. His first short fiction was published in Story magazine in 1933. In 1935 he published his first novel, Somebody in Boots. In early 1942, Algren put the finishing touches on a second novel and joined the war as an enlisted man. By 1945, he still had not made the grade of Private first class, but the novel Never Come Morning was widely praised and eventually sold over a million copies. In 1947 came The Neon Wilderness, his famous short story collection which would permanently establish his place in American letters.

The Man with the Golden Arm, generally considered Algren’s most important novel, appeared in 1949 and became the first winner of the National Book Award for Fiction in March 1950. Then came Chicago: City on the Make (1951), a prose poem, and A Walk on the Wild Side (1956), a rewrite of Somebody in Boots.

Algren also published two travel books, Who Lost an American? and Notes from a Sea Voyage. The Last Carousel, a collection of short fiction and nonfiction, appeared in 1973. He died on May 9, 1981, within days of his appointment as a fellow of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

His last novel, The Devil’s Stocking, based on the life of Hurricane Carter, and Nonconformity: Writing on Writing, a 1952 essay on the art of writing, were published posthumously in 1983 and 1996 respectively. In 2009 came Entrapment and Other Writings, a major collection of previously unpublished writings that included two early short story masterpieces, “Forgive Them, Lord,” and “The Lightless Room,” and the long unfinished novel fragment referenced in the book’s title. In 2019, Blackstone Audio released the complete library of Algren’s books as audiobooks. And in 2020 Olive Films released Nelson Algren Live, a performance film of Algren’s life and work starring Willem Dafoe and Barry Gifford, among others, produced by the Seven Stories Institute. 

Foreword by Colin Asher
Introduction by James R. Giles


A novel of rare genius, The Man with the Golden Arm describes the dissolution of a card-dealing WWII veteran named Frankie Machine, caught in the act of slowly cutting his own heart into wafer-thin slices. For Frankie, a murder committed may be the least of his problems.


The literary critic Malcolm Cowley called The Man with the Golden Arm “Algren’s defense of the individual,” while Carl Sandburg wrote of its “strange midnight dignity.” A literary tour de force, here is a novel unlike any other, one in which drug addiction, poverty, and human failure somehow suggest a defense of human dignity and a reason for hope.


Seven Stories Press separately publishes the critical edition of The Man with the Golden Arm, the first critical edition of an Algren work, featuring an extra 100+ pages of insightful essays by Russell Banks, Bettina Drew, James R. Giles, Carlo Rotella, William Savage, Lee Stringer, Studs Terkel, Kurt Vonnegut, and others.

Introduction by Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Wright
Afterword by Daniel Simon 
Contribution by H.E.F. Donahue

Never Come Morning is unique among the novels of Algren. The author's only romance, the novel concerns Bruno Bicek, a would-be boxer from Chicago's Northwest side, and Steffi, the woman who shares his dream while living his nightmare. "It is an unusual and brilliant book," said The New York Times. "A bold scribbling upon the wall for comfortable Americans to ponder and digest." This new edition features an introduction by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and an interview with Nelson Algren by H.E.F. Donohue.

Foreword by Colin Asher 
Introduction by Tom Carson 
Afterword by Studs Terkel 

Nelson Algren's classic 1947 short story collection is the pure vein Algren would mine for all his subsequent novels and stories. The stories in this collection are literary triumphs that don't fade away.

Among the stories included here are "A Bottle of Milk for Mother," about a Chicago youth being cornered for a murder, and "The Face on the Barroom Floor," in which a legless man pummels another man nearly to death—the seeds that would grow into the novel Never Come Morning.

Also collected are the World War II stories that found their final expression in the novel The Man with the Golden Arm, as well as “So Help Me,” Algren’s first published work, and "The Captain Has Bad Dreams," in which Algren first introduced the character of the blameless captain who feels such a heavy burden of guilt and wonders why the criminal offenders he sees seem to feel no guilt at all. And then there is "Design for Departure," in which a young woman drifting into hooking and addiction sees her own dreaminess outlast her hopes.

As rock and roll novelist Tom Carson writes in his introduction, "The Neon Wilderness is the pivotal book of Nelson Algren's career — the one which bid a subdued but determined farewell to everything that had earlier made him no more than just another good writer, and inaugurated the idiosyncratic, bedevilled, cantankerously poetic sensibility that would see him ranked among the few literary originals of his times."

Edited by Brooke Horvath and Dan Simon

Nelson Algren sought humanity in the urban wilderness of postwar America, where his powerful voice rose from behind the billboards and down tin-can alleys, from among the marginalized and ignored, the outcasts and scapegoats, the punks and junkies, the whores and down-on-their luck gamblers, the punch-drunk boxers and skid-row drunkies and kids who knew they'd never reach the age of twenty-one: all of them admirable in Algren’s eyes for their vitality and no-bullshit forthrightness, their insistence on living and their ability to find a laugh and a dream in the unlikeliest places.

In Entrapment and Other Writings—containing his unfinished novel and previously unpublished or uncollected stories, poems, and essays—Algren speaks to our time as few of his fellow great American writers of the 1940s and ’50s do, in part because he hasn’t yet been accepted and assimilated into the American literary canon despite that he is held up as a talismanic figure.

The fiction and reportage included in The Last Carousel, one of the final collections published during Nelson Algren's lifetime, was written on ships and in ports of call around the world, and includes accounts of brothels in Vietnam and Mexico, stories of the boxing ring, and reminiscences of Algren's beloved Chicago White Sox, among other subjects. In this collection, not just Algren's intensity but his diverse range of interests are revealed and celebrated. 

Foreword by Herbert Mitgang

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.

Afterword by Dan Simon

Notes by Dan Simon and C. S. O’Brien

Nonconformity is about 20th-century America: "Never on the earth of man has he lived so tidily as here amidst such psychological disorder." It is also about the trouble writers ask for when they try to describe America: "Our myths are so many, our vision so dim, our self-deception so deep and our smugness so gross that scarcely any way now remains of reporting the American Century except from behind the billboards … [where there] are still … defeats in which everything is lost [and] victories that fall close enough to the heart to afford living hope."

In Nonconformity, Nelson 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 says here. 

Nelson Algren’s two books of travel writing describe his journeys through the seamier side of the international social and political landscape of the mid-1960s.

Algren at Sea brings both books together in one volume on the centenary of Algren’s birth.

Aboard the freighter Malaysia Mail in Notes From a Sea Diary, Algren offers a gritty account of his time among his down-and-out fellow sailors and the underground port life of Kowloon, Bombay, Pusan—yet an account softened by his discussion of Hemingway, Hemingway’s attitude toward the world of literature (and the world of literature’s attitude toward Hemingway), and the role of a writer in modern America.

Who Lost an American? takes us on a whirlwind spin from the world of the New York literary scene to Dublin, Crete, Paris, Seville, and more, with Algren commenting on everything from Simone de Beauvoir to bullfights to Playboy key clubs to the death of Brendan Behan—and, as always, Chicago, Algren’s eternal touchstone of American brutality.

Foreword by David Mamet

They met in 1949 when Art was a reporter for Life. Shay followed Algren around with a camera, gathering pictures for a photo-essay piece he was pitching to the magazine. Life didn't pick up the article, but Shay and Algren became fast friends. Algren gave Shay's camera entrance into the back-alley world of Division Street, and Shay captured Algren's poetry on film. They were masters chronicling the same patch of ground with different tools. Chicago's Nelson Algren is the compilation of hundreds of photos—many recently discovered and published here for the first time—of Nelson Algren over the course of a decade and a deeply moving homage to the writer and his city. Read Algren and you'll see Shay's pictures; look at Shay's photos and you'll hear Nelson's words.

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