Willard Motley was born c.1912 and grew up in Chicago. He wrote Knock on Any Door and Let No Man Write My Epitaph, two novels which called attention to the inevitability of criminal youths being a product of society. In Knock on Any Door, the lawyer, Morton, is responsible for defending a boy, Nick, accused of violently attacking a police officer.
Morton’s famous quote to the jury is “Until we do away with the type of neighborhood that produced this boy, ten will spring up to take his place, a hundred, a thousand. Until we wipe out the slums and rebuild them, knock on any door and you may find Nick Romano.”
Nick’s self-acclaimed motto is “Life fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.”
Motley was accused of avoiding issues of race by writing his books about white characters, and he said “My race is the human race.”
This is an author I would like to see included in more American Literature classes. This is a man who deserves to be important.