An American writer of novels and short fiction, he is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. His novels include Sun Dogs, Wabash, and Mr. Spaceman.
He served in Vietnam as both a translator and a counter-intelligence special agent for the U.S. Army.
He taught creative writing at both McNeese State University (Louisiana) and Florida State University.
The son of an actor, he studied theater at Northwestern University and dramatic writing at the University of Iowa. He was married four times; he wed his fourth wife, Kelly Lee Daniels, in 2012.
He and Jesse Hill Ford were both Guggenheim fellowship recipients.