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O. Henry was the pen-name of William Sydney Porter. He was born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. As a child, he was always reading. He read everything from classics to dime novels. His favourite reading was One Thousand and One Nights.
In 1879, he started working as a bookkeeper in his uncle's drugstore and in 1881, at the age of nineteen, he was licensed as a pharmacist. At the drugstore, he also showed off his natural artistic talents by sketching the townsfolk.
Henry's most prolific writing period started in 1902, when he moved to New York City. While there, he wrote 381 short stories. He wrote a story a week for over a year for the New York World Sunday Magazine. His wit, characterization and plot twists were adored by his readers, but often panned by critics. He went on to gain international recognition and is credited with defining the short story as a literary art form.
O. Henry stories are famous for their surprise endings, to the point that such an ending is often referred to as an "O. Henry ending." His stories are also well known for their witty narration. Most of O. Henry's stories are set in his own time, the early years of the 20th century. Many take place in New York City and deal for the most part with ordinary people: clerks, policemen, and waitresses. The O. Henry Award is a prestigious annual prize given to outstanding short stories.
O. Henry was a master of the short story and one of the most popular American writers of the twentieth century. This selection of tales from across his writing career ranges from New York apartments to the cattle-lands of Texas, taking in con men, clerks, hustlers, shop assistants, tramps and tricksters. They all highlight his ironic, comic eye, his gift for evoking speech and setting, and his unique approach to life's quirks of fate. The Penguin English Library - collectable general readers' editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century to the end of the Second World War.