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Who's Who - Lit

Styles: Journalists, Novelists, Playwrights (& Theatre Criticism)

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Ben Hecht
Ben Hecht (1894 - 1964) lived in New York state most of his life, but bloomed as a writer during Chicago's post-World War I literary renaissance. One of the founders of the Chicago Literary Times (1923 - 24), Hecht wrote novels and short stories inspired by the colorful characters he encountered when he was a reporter for the Chicago Journal and Chicago Daily News.

His experience as a reporter enhanced his fiction to good effect, but he often let his creativity overtake his credibility - in his autobiography, he admitted to embellishing and fabricating many of his news stories. Fittingly, Hecht also wrote one of the most popular fictional accounts of the newspaper business, "The Front Page." This definitive account of the turbulent Chicago newspaper scene during the Roaring Twenties has been made into a movie three times.

Though he never attended college, Hecht was exceptionally well-read. He did not feel as though he was a part of the gritty urban world he wrote about, and always seemed a little surprised by the sensational stories he often covered. In 1934 he founded a motion picture production company with Charles MacArthur, who had collaborated with Hecht on two plays.

"1001 Afternoons in Chicago" is the best-known of Hecht's collections of short stories. Critics prefer Hecht's stories, which are clever slices of urban life, to his novels, which are seen as too shallow. was also a talented screenwriter, winning Oscars for "Underworld" and "The Scoundrel." But Hecht himself believed that novel writing was his true calling, and regretted having to spend most of his time on other projects.

Selected Works:

chicago, metromix