Grant Allen was born on February 24, 1848 near Kingston, Ontario, in Canada. Though largely forgotten today, during his lifetime he was a prolific and popular writer who published widely in diverse areas, which were as various as his own intellectual pursuits that ranged from the sciences to literature. His best stories, which featured the notorious conartist and thief, Colonel Clay, first appeared in the Strand Magazine and later were collected in the book, An African Millionaire: Episodes in the Life of the Illustrious Colonel Clay (1897), commonly regarded by many critics as the first fictional work to feature a criminal protagonist.
Gary Hoppenstand is a professor of English at Michigan State University and wrote the introduction to Penguin Classics edition of An African Millionaire. He lives in East Lansing, Michigan.