Norman Mailer was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 16, he matriculated at Harvard University to study aeronautical engineering. After graduation, he was drafted into the army and served as an artilleryman in the Philippines, an experience that inspired his debut novel The Naked and the Dead. A gritty, realistic portrayal of the agonies of combat, the book resonated deeply with Americans in the years following World War II, topping the New York Times Bestseller list for eleven consecutive weeks and making Mailer a national celebrity. Critics hailed him as one of the great rising American writers of the post-war era.
Throughout his career, Mailer contributed more than thirty works of fiction and nonfiction to the American literary canon. Considered the innovator of the nonfiction novel, he received several prizes for his books, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Armies of the Night, the National Book Award for nonfiction for Miami and the Siege of Chicago, and a second Pulitzer for The Executioner’s Song. In 1955 he co-founded The Village Voice; 50 years later, he won the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. Mailer died in 2007.