Michael Thomas is a lot like the narrator in Man Gone Down. Thomas has admitted that his own life story was the basis of his novel, so finding similarities between the author and the narrator of his story is not coincidental. He was in his mid-thirties when he wrote the novel, grew up in Boston, and has held a lot of different types of jobs, many of them similar to his character. Thomas has been a bike messenger, a carpenter, a filmmaker, singer, and is currently a teacher. Like his nameless protagonist, Thomas is also married to a white woman, has three children, and moved from Boston to Brooklyn.
His father, David Milton Thomas, used to read philosophy to Thomas, when he "was far too young to understand" it, Thomas told David Mehegan, of the Boston Globe. Later, after his parents separated, Thomas spent a lot of time reading his father's books. Then in junior high, he began to write, mostly entries in journals and poetry. Despite this nearly lifelong history of writing, Thomas did not expect to become a novelist.
Thomas says that his father wanted him to do something great, like becoming the president of the United States, but Thomas felt more drawn to music and poetry. He attended college for one year, where he met Michaele, a dancer. Eventually the couple married and had three children. While in New York, Thomas went back to school and finished his bachelor's degree at Hunter College. Afterward, he earned a master's degree in creative writing at Warren Wilson College. He now teaches writing at Hunter College.