A twentieth-century American author, he is best known for The Human Season (1960) and The Pawnbroker (1961). After his death, the Edward Lewis Wallant Award was established in his honor.
He served in World War II as a gunner's mate. He began his professional writing career in his late twenties.
He died of an aneurysm when he was only thirty-six years old.
He spent most of his life in New Haven, Connecticut. He and his wife Joyce had three children together.
He and Wolf Kahn both received Guggenheim Fellowships.