|Stephen Crane was the son of a well-known Methodist minister--one of 14 children. His mother was active in the church and was herself the niece of a bishop who was renowned for his fire-and-brimstone, stern, unforgiving outlook. Crane repudiated the staunch Methodism of his family, but questions of faith preoccupied him all his life. He attended a military-style prep school in Claverack, New York, and spent a year at Lafayette College and a semester at Syracuse University, where he was much more devoted to baseball (a lifelong passion) than to his studies, though he was well known for his brilliance as well as his unconventionality. He became a newspaper reporter in New Jersey and New York City in the early 1890s. His first novel, MAGGIE, was based on his observations of the slums that were on his beat; it was turned down by editors for its rough subject matter, and Crane published it privately under a pseudonym. He continued to live an impoverished life, by choice, while he worked on his fiction: poverty was research. He haunted the Bowery disguised as a beggar, observing the lives of the poor and downtrodden, and moved there in 1892, living in flophouses. He became a correspondent for a newspaper syndicate and traveled to Nebraska, Texas, Arkansas (the scenes of his western stories), and Mexico. THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, published in 1895 when Crane was back in New York, was an instant success, and he became an international celebrity whose friends and influences included Hamlin Garland and William Dean Howells, as well as Joseph Conrad. However, he became involved in an altercation between a prostitute and a policeman and testified against the latter in court, which resulted in the entire New York City police force (headed by Theodore Roosevelt as commissioner) turning against him. He left the city in 1896 and never returned there to live. Crane spent the rest of his short life as a war correspondent in Cuba and Greece. In Florida he met Cora Taylor, a woman who had left her husband to serve as the proprietor of a brothel called the Hotel de Dream, and she became his common-law wife; they settled in London, where their unorthodox relationship was less problematic. Crane's travels and adventures exhausted him and probably contributed to his poor health. He continued to write sketches, poems, and short fiction until he died of consumption at a German sanitarium at the age of 29. Crane was an innovative fiction writer, less interested in plot than in the interior life of his characters; he was an anticipator of modernism and, like Hemingway who was born 28 years after him, had a profound interest in the heroic character's reaction to extremes of stress and violence, usually in nature. In his brief, eventful life, Crane managed to produce several novels that are considered masterpieces of realism. THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE is, of course, his most celebrated work. His short story "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky" is important partly because it is the source of several themes that have become staples of western movies: gunslinger vs. lawman, the dramatic face-off, and the gradual encroachment of eastern "civilization" on the Wild West.