DARK RIDER by Louis Zara


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A compelling- and exhausting- novel built on the life of Stephen Crane, best known today as the author of Red Radge of Courage. If Zara has unearthed authentic material, Crane's life was as tempestuous, romantic and adventurous as any of his characters created in short stories, novels, journalistic writings over the span of his short life. Son of a fanatical minister, restricted from all normal outlets by the mores of his parents, Crane rebelled at formal education, tried one educational institution after another and wasted the money and the hopes of his parents and his brothers and sister. Eventually he turned to journalism -- lived on the meagerest of fare --explored the sordid Rowery, the red light districts, the haunts of crime -- and wrote some cruelly realistic pieces. A victim of successive women, possessive, rapacious, promising him the freedom he craved- and then wrapping him in bonds, Crane eventually shifted residence to England with the woman (who had once run a brothel in Florida) generally accepted by literary lights such as Conrad, Wells, Henry James, and others as his wife. This aspect of his life is never mentioned in the sparse notes in literary biographical encyclopedias. Better known is his dubious but brilliant record as a reporter of wars:- Cuba, Greece, etc. -- wars from which he emerged broken in health, but with a teeming- and largely imaginary -mother lode of inspiration. Debts plagued him all his life; he found himself writing against a deadline of promises, in order to earn enough to get out of debt. And at the end, dying of tuberculosis, he knew that he had sacrificed his great gift on the altar of expediency. An era in the awakening of American writing is revealed with Stephen Crane recognized- but sadly too late.

Publisher: World