BOOK REVIEW / Paperbacks: The Double Life of Stephen Crane: a Biography - Christopher Benfrey: Vintage, pounds 7.99

It's scandalous that Crane is not better known in this country. Yet he's hardly easy to know. He died young, his life was crammed with secrets, false trails and evasions and his art was mysteriously ahead of its time. He also tended to reverse the usual writer's way. Instead of recording his experiences, Crane 'tried to live what he'd already written'. He imagined the private's eye view of the American Civil War in The Red Badge of Courage - so intensely that some claimed to have fought alongside him, though he wasn't born until 1871 and did not see battle until he later became a war correspondent. Then, typically, he imagined much of what he reported. American critic Benfrey revels intelligently in the challenge of this very interesting life.