"The Captain Has Bad Dreams," a story of a captain overseeing sentencings of criminals, is still one of my favorite stories of all time. This book, and Algren's others, really sort of blew me away, in that, rather than sentimentalizing the poor -- and I think Algren said this in an interview once -- a lot of them are simply "mean and stupid." But Algren shows them being mean and stupid and somehow still makes you care about them. That's some good writing. Algren also said the hardest thing to do was write about what actually went on in one city block during one day and get it right. I think of George Higgins and Richard Price as being the modern writers who followed in Algren's footsteps, and the TV show The Wire as serving the same kind of purpose that Algren's books served in his day.