An American fiction writer and essayist, he is best known for such Western-themed novels as Desperadoes and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The latter work was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.
He earned an M.F.A. from the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop and subsequently attended Stanford University on a Wallace Stegner Fellowship.
He taught literature and creative writing at Santa Clara University.
He grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. He married fellow writer, Bo Caldwell.