In the summer of 1917, Ernest Hemingway was an 18-year-old high school graduate unsure of his future. The American entry in the Great War stirred thoughts of joining the army. While many of his friends in Oak Park, Ill., were heading to college, Hemingway couldn’t make up his mind, and eventually chose to begin a career in writing and journalism. An uncle helped get him a job at one of the great newspapers in its day, The Kansas City Star. In six and a half months, Hemingway experienced a compressed, customized and streetwise alternative to a college education, which opened his eyes to urban violence, the power of literature, the hard work of writing, and a constantly swirling stage of human comedy and drama. The Kansas City experience led Hemingway into the Red Cross ambulance service in Italy, where, two weeks before his 19th birthday, he was dangerously wounded at the front. Hemingway at Eighteen takes a measure of those peak experiences of a young man bound for greatness and a writer at the very beginning of his journey.
Steve Paul is an award-winning writer and editor who worked at the Kansas City Star for more than 40 years, including stints as book critic, arts editor, restaurant critic, and—before his retirement in early 2016—editorial page editor. He is a former board member of the National Book Critics Circle and the author (and photographer) of Architecture A to Z, the editor of Kansas City Noir, and coeditor of War + Ink: New Perspectives on Ernest Hemingway’s Early Life and Writings.