Bek, Aleksandr Alfredovich, was born on 3 January 1903 in Saratov in the family of a military doctor. At the age of 16, with the Civil War in full swing, Bek joined the Red Army. He fought on the eastern front near Ural and was wounded. In 1919, by pure chance, Bek garnered the attention of the chief editor of the division newspaper, who gave him a few assignments. Thus began his literary activity.
Later, sketches and reviews by Bek began to appear in the newspapers Komsomolskaya Pravda and Ivzestia. In 1931, he went to work on editing The History of Factories and Plants, under the leadership of M. Gorky. Bek's first short novel, Kurako, written in 1934, was about the prominent Russian mettalurgist and blast-furnace operator Mikhail K. Kurako.
At the opening of the Great Patriotic War (World War II), Bek joined the Moscow People's Homeguard, specifically, the Krasnopresensky Infantry Division. He was at the battle for Vyazma as a war correspondent. He traveled with the troops all the way to victory in Berlin.
Bek's most famous novel, Volokolamsk Highway, was written in 1943-1944. It tells of one batallion's battle against the Nazis as well as their own fears in the early stages of the Defense of Moscow. Initially terrified by the seemingly unstoppable enemy, the ranks of Soviet soliders are plagued with cowardice and desertion. A few executions help restore discipline, and a few well-planned sneak attacks teach the men that the Germans bleed and die, too. In the end, the troops fight bravely, the commanders strategize creatively, and the Red Army wins valuable time. This story was continued in the novels Several Days (1960) and General Panfilov's Reserve (1960).
Following the war, Bek visited Manchuria and Port-Arthur and produced a series of sketches based on these travels.
Bek authored numerous sketches, stories, and novels about metallurgists. These works include the collection Blast-Furnace Workers, and the novels New Profile and Young People (written in collaboration with N. Loiko). The Life of Berezhkov (1956) combines fictional portraits with depictions of historical figures. The novel Postal Prosewas published in 1968. Another one of Bek's later novels, The New Appointment, concerned the life of I. Tevosyan, the Minister of Steel Production under Stalin. Tevosyan's widow objected to the book, and it was not pubished in the Soviet Union. It appeared in the West in 1972.
Aleksandr Bek died on 2 November 1972. His final book, In His Own Age, was relased after his death.