World famous at twenty-four, brilliant, reckless, and ultimately tragic, Stephen Crane is a dramatic study in contradictions. His most famous work, The Red Badge of Courage, is a classic antiwar novel, yet Crane himself longed for military honors. The son of a repressive Methodist minister who preached that reading novels was a vice, he used his literary stature to help defend a prostitute against the corrupt New York City police, which ruined his reputation and cost him the friendship of Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt. An easterner who fancied himself a cowboy, he spent his last years on a ramshackle estate in England, entertaining friends, including Joseph Conrad, Henry James, Ford Madox Ford, and H. G. Wells, who described him as "beyond dispute, the best writer of our generation." To those who knew him, Crane was unforgettable. Yet because he left behind so few personal documents, his life has been shrouded in misconception and myth. In this first accurate, in-depth account of the legendary writer, Linda Davis vividly describes Crane's short but endlessly fascinating life and assesses the full extent of his literary contribution.