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In 1996, Frank McCourt's book, "Angela's Ashes" became a runaway best sellert.

The book movingly described how his family, who were already poor, moved back to Ireland in the depths of the Depression.

There, they sank even further into poverty. McCourt's vivid descriptions of the rain-soaked and rat-infested Limerick slums in "Angela's Ashes" drew much negative comment in Ireland. However, his memoir fared better in America where Irish immigrants were more forthcoming about their poor upbringings.

McCourt's father was an alchoholic and he drank what little money the famliy had before eventually abandoning the family.

Three of McCourt's siblings died and McCourt himself almost died of typhoid when he was a child.

McCourt eventually quit school at 13 and tried to support his mother and four remaining siblings before he headed back to the U.S. where he was drafted into the U.S. army.

He was stationed in Germany for the duration of the Korean War and signed on for college through the G.I. Bill 

McCourt lacked a formal education but was able to convince New York University to accept him as a student. He graduated as a teacher and taugh creative writing in the New York public school system for 27 years.

It was only when he retired from teaching that McCourt found his own creative voice.

"Angela's Ashes," which won the Pulitzer prize for biography, sold more than 4 million copies. The story of McCourt's childhood touched a global chord and was published in 17 languages in 27 countries.

His second book, "'Tis," which continued with his arrival in America at age 19, was an instant best-seller along with his 2005 memoir, "Teacher Man," which looked back at his 27 years in the NYC public school system.