An American novelist and playwright, he wrote the 1968 novel The Gospel Singer and also published columns and essays in Esquire magazine. His other literary works include The Mulching of America, A Feast of Snakes, and The Gypsy's Curse.
He served in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War.
He had a tattoo on his arm that featured a line from an E.E. Cummings poem.
He grew up in Georgia and briefly attended the University of Florida. With his wife, Sally, he had a son named Patrick.
He had a brief role in The Indian Runner, a film directed by Sean Penn.