Remembered for his historical novel The Tired Captains, Curtis based the work on his World War I experience as a member of the Royal Air Force. His other books include Cruises in the Sun, Drumbeater's Island, and The Last Wanigan.
He briefly studied at Amherst College and went on to train at the University of Illinois' Military Aeronautics School. He was subsequently sent to Europe as a member of an American unit of the British Royal Flying Corp.
His book The Blushing Camel earned the praise of renowned author F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Upon his father's marriage to Hart Crane's divorced mother, Curtis became the stepbrother of the famous poet.