World famous at twenty-four, brilliant and reckless, hard-living and scandalous, Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage before he ever experienced war first-hand.
So true was his portrait of a young man who runs from his first confrontation with battle that Civil War veterans argued about whose regiment Crane had been in. Considered by H.G. Wells as “beyond dispute, the best writer of our generation,” Crane was also famous in his time as an unforgettable personality, an Adonis with tawny hair and gray-blue eyes that Willa Cather described as “full of luster and changing lights.” A lover of women and truth at any cost, Crane, in his short life, paid dearly for both. He alienated the New York police when he testified against a policeman on behalf of a prostitute falsely accused of soliciting, forcing him to live the rest of his short life as an expatriate in England. Reporting on the Spanish American War, Crane described the Rough Riders blundering into a trap after arriving in Cuba, infuriating Roosevelt. He died tragically young, leaving behind a handful of fine short stories, including The Open Boat and The Blue Hotel, along with war reporting, novels, and poetry.