An American Tragedy is one of my favorite novels of all time. A true masterpiece. It is loosely based on a true story, the case of Chester Gillette. The characters are rich and interesting and not cookie-cutter or two-dimensional. A fascinating read. Highly recommended!
I enjoyed this very much as a teenager; it's got all the elements of trash, but masquerades as literature. I have read my copy of this until it is falling apart (it is not posted to PBS, of course!). Dreiser's writing is technically horrible, but the story is so compelling...if you kind of blur your crit skills as you read (don't notice the awkward sentences, the repetition, etc) you will really get absorbed by this one. A lot better than Sister Carrie. I think of this as pulp fiction from an earlier era. The whole "naturalist" movement of literature is represented perfectly by this book. So it's a little depressing on the whole--but it's a fun, long read. If you like this, you'll no doubt like Maugham (The Razor's Edge, Of Human Bondage) and Sinclair Lewis (Babbitt, Main Street, Arrowsmith). The story here (drastically edited) was made into the movie A Place in the Sun.