|John Fante's novels and stories reflected his life, and his perennial hero, Arturo Bandini, was a version of himself. Born into an impoverished Italian-American family in 1909, the son of a drunk and a gambler, Fante was a college dropout, a lapsed Catholic, a family man who supported his wife and children largely through a succession of menial jobs. He began publishing stories in 1932, when H. L. Mencken--Fante's mentor and lifelong hero--accepted one of his stories for the American Mercury. Fante's first novel was published in 1938, and his second, plus a short-story collection, in 1940--then nothing else appeared for 12 years, during which he struggled with a Steinbeck-esque epic about oppressed Filipino workers in California. Eventually he abandoned it, and in 1952 FULL OF LIFE was published and made into a highly successful movie, starring Judy Holliday. He worked briefly, and not very successfully, as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Always a heavy drinker, Fante was diabetic, blind, and in generally poor health during his last years. Shortly before his death, however, he finally received some recognition for his work: the writer Charles Bukowski, who had never made a secret of his own deep debt to Fante, mentioned him approvingly in a prominent interview, and Fante's work began to be republished by Bukowski's publisher, Black Sparrow Press. Fante's novels and stories may have been severely underappreciated when they were published, but they are revered after his death as tough, lyrical celebrations of life, written with clarity and candor.