Nelson Algren’s novel The Man with the Golden Arm takes places in the late 1940s, on the Near Northwest Side of Chicago along Division and Milwaukee. Its hero is Frankie Machine, a card dealer looking for stability, love, and respite from his morphine addiction, which began when he started taking it for liver pain while serving in World War II. 

Frankie lives on Division with his wife, Zosh, who uses a wheelchair since a drunk driving accident that Frankie caused. They fight a lot and she spends most days looking out the window at the El. Other characters include Zero Schwiefka, Frankie’s boss; Sparrow Saltskin, his protégé; Nifty Louie Fomorowski, his dealer; and Molly-O Novotny, his lover.

In the book’s first draft, Frankie was not hooked on morphine but Algren incorporated that into the plot after the agent said it needed “a peg.”