This is the first reassessment in more than a quarter of a century of one of the most brilliant and fascinating figures in American literature - the novelist-journalist born in 1871, six years after the war he memorialized in his universally acclaimed The Red Badge of Courage, and dead of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-eight. Recounting Stephen Crane's brief life (a life crammed with incident and mystery), Benfey identifies a curious pattern: Crane tried to live what he had already written. Barely twenty-two when he wrote The Red Badge, he later became the leading war-correspondent of his time - in order to see, he told Joseph Conrad, whether The Red Badge was "all right." He wrote Maggie: A Girl of the Streets more out of curiosity than knowledge; a few years later he took as his common-law wife the madam of a Jacksonville whorehouse. He made a life with her in England, where their circle of good friends included Conrad, Henry James, Ford Madox Ford, and H. G. Wells. Christopher Benfey has given us as full an account of Crane's life as we can ever have - and an inspired reading of his astonishingly multifaceted work.