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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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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.

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The Devil's Stocking is clearly vintage Algren. . . . [He] seems not to have aged but only matured and to be, as never before, in firm possession of his subject. His language throughout the novel is precise, controlled, almost entirely free of the lush lyrical excesses of the past, but nonetheless genuinely warm and alive. The story is recognizable as belonging in the classic Algren repertoire, yet is also freshly conceived and carried forward with an easy assurance that indicates Algren had it in him to write five or six more novels in the same vein.”

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One of the most neglected of modern American authors and also one of the best loved by those who know his work, Nelson Algren (1909–1981) believed that “literature is made upon any occasion that a challenge is put to the legal apparatus by conscience in touch with humanity.” His own voluminous body of work stands up to that belief. Algren’s powerful voice rose from the urban wilderness of postwar Chicago, and it is to that city of hustlers, addicts, and scamps that he returned again and again, eventually raising Chicago’s “lower depths” up onto a stage for the whole world to behold. Recipient of the first National Book Award for fiction and lauded by Hemingway as “one of the two best authors in America,” Algren remains among our most defiant and enduring novelists. His work includes five major novels, two short fiction collections, a book-length poem, and several collections of reportage. A source of inspiration to artists as diverse as Kurt Vonnegut and Donald Barthelme, Studs Terkel and Lou Reed, Algren died on May 9, 1981, within days of his appointment as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.