Biography

As a child and a teenager growing up in Dallas, Texas, I was always fascinated by foreign places. The only way I could satisfy this wanderlust at the time was through reading, and I majored in English literature in college. My great love was for the theater, where I could experience how other people lived in different times. During my years at university, I also worked on the campus newspaper, The Daily Texan, and wrote theater and movie reviews for it. When I left college, I worked for a time as an actor at a local theater in Dallas, but that did not pay any money, and I knew I had to get a job to support myself. Because of my experience on the college paper, I applied for a job in journalism and was hired in Dallas by United Press International, then one of two major news agencies covering stories around the world. After working there for only two months, I was suddenly thrust into helping cover one of the biggest news stories of the time – the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Being in the very whirlwind of history was an exhilarating experience and it ignited another secret ambition I had nurtured. My brief theater career was put on hold and I began to work toward my new goal of becoming a foreign correspondent. Two years later, I was transferred to the New York headquarters of U.P.I., and after another two years there, I was finally posted to London as a correspondent for the agency. During my time there, I covered several big stories, including the start of what became known as The Troubles in Northern Ireland and the entry of British troops there. After London, I was assigned to Rome, and from the Italian capital I was sent to various points in the Middle East when big stories broke in that region. I was in Beirut and Amman, Jordan, when a triple airplane hijacking ended in a civil war in Jordan, and I was sent to Israel to help cover the 1973 Middle East war. As a news agency reporter, I covered many different kinds of stories – diplomatic conferences, sporting events, riots, hijackings. It was all very exciting, but after several years I returned to New York as an editor, going out only occasionally on big stories. One of the last major stories I covered as a reporter was the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Shortly after that, I was hired by The New York Times as an editor on the paper’s foreign news desk. For the next 26 years, I worked as an editor at The Times – on the foreign desk, in the paper’s Book Review section and on the Culture News desk. I also began to write occasional drama reviews for the paper, bringing my career full circle back to my first love of the theater. After leaving the paper as an editor, I devote my time to writing books, although I continue to write theater reviews for The Times. My book-writing career began almost by accident. A good friend, Mary Pope Osborne, who had heard me tell about my involvement in covering the Kennedy assassination, suggested I write a book about it for Young Adults. Amy Ehrlich, an editor at Candlewick Press, read my account of that day and published my first book, Kennedy Assassinated: The World Mourns. Since then I have published three more books with Candlewick as well as a biography of Elvis Presley for Penguin’s UpClose series. I live in New York with my wife, LuAnn Walther. My son, Douglas, is a fisheries biologist who lives in California, and we visit him and our grandson, Jerel, as often as possible.

Selected Works

The story of one of America’s greatest playwrights and screenwriters, who won two Academy Awards and the Pulitzer Prize but lived a quiet family life out of the spotlight.
An account of the day John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, told by a cub reporter who was suddenly thrown into covering its tragic events.
The day terrorists attacked New York City, told through the eyes of those who suffered personal loss in the collapse of the Twin Towers.
Two wars that changed the course of the Middle East, told through the eyes of a reporter who covered them.
The rise and fall of the young man from Tupelo, Mississippi, who created a new music that became rock and roll and became its king.
The story of a bad kid from the Baltimore dockyards who rose from a reform school playground to become the greatest baseball player ever to step on a diamond.

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