Born in October 1926, Edward Lewis Wallant grew up in Connecticut, served in the United States Navy, and graduated from Pratt Institute. After embarking on a career in advertising, he enrolled in courses in creative writing at The New School for Social Research. Married in 1947 to Joyce Fromkin, with whom he had three children, Wallant published his first novel, The Human Season, in 1960; it received the Harry and Ethel Daroff Memorial Fiction Award for the year’s best novel on a Jewish theme. His next novel, The Pawnbroker, was published in 1961. The Pawnbroker became a National Book Award finalist and was eventually adapted for the screen, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Rod Steiger in an Oscar-nominated performance.
In December 1962, shortly after returning from European travels facilitated by a Guggenheim Fellowship, Wallant suffered an aneurysm and fell into a coma from which he never wakened. Two additional novels—The Children at the Gate and Moonbloom—were published posthumously. The Daroff Award was subsequently re-named in Wallant’s honor: The Edward Lewis Wallant Award is now presented annually at the University of Hartford; recipients have included Chaim Potok, Cynthia Ozick, Francine Prose, and Dara Horn.