Where are you from?
Born in Bryan, Texas; raised in Roanoke, Va.
Who are your favorite writers?
God, how does one choose?
Nonfiction: John McPhee, Primo Levi, David McCullough, William Manchester, John Brooks, James B. Stewart, Bill Bryson, Roger Lowenstein, Calvin Trillin, Ron Chernow and Kurt Eichenwald.
Contemporary Fiction: Michael Chabon, Dorothy Dunnett, Michael Dibdin, Neal Stephenson, Jane Smiley, Patrick O'Brian, Dorothy Sayers and, yes, J.K. Rowling.
Gore Vidal is a big favorite in both categories.
The Late Greats: Anthony Trollope and Jane Austen, in a dead heat for first. Close behind: Edith Wharton, Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw.
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
I'd like to think they are ones by Primo Levi and John McPhee. I have read their entire canon, several times over. The clarity and simplicity of their approach is a bracing tonic for writers who tend to go a little overboard. The consistently beautiful work of the late John Brooks, a business writer for the New Yorker, was also a revelation and inspiration.
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
Nothing you could honestly call a hobby except reading and the theater. I plan to take up ballroom dancing in retirement.
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
Every single rule between the covers of the time-management classic "How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life" by Alan Lakein. The result has been a lifelong commitment to goal-setting, list-making and long-term planning.
What is your favorite quote?
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."—Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
What is the question most commonly asked by your readers? What is the answer?
Q. What makes you think you can be truly objective about anything?
A. I don't — I just think that working hard to be objective gets you a lot closer to that ideal than giving up.
What inspired you to write your first book?
A passionate desire to explain the risks surrounding an obscure but very important public policy development, the proliferation of public revenue bond authorities. Hey, it was a long time ago!
Where do you write?
My books have been mostly written in my window-less, sky-lit home office in Hoboken. Since I use voice recognition software for all my long writing projects — and have since 1998 — the seclusion helps.