Where are you from?
I am from Queens, New York. I have also lived in Kentucky, while covering Appalachia for the New York Times.
Who are your favorite writers?
I loved Thomas Wolfe as a teen-ager, and James Joyce as an adult, and of course love classics writers like Dante, Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Calvino, and historians and biographers.
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Richard Halliburton wrote The Book of Marvels, which I read as a 10-year-old, about exciting places around the world – Chichen Itza, Pompeii, Mt. St. Michel. Made me want to go there, and I did, to some of them. Gave me wanderlust.
Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel about his life called Look Homeward Angel, that put a framework on how I saw my life and the world.
I took a course as a college senior, in the Cavalier Poets. Donne. Herrick. Marvell. We named our second daughter Corinna after a Herrick poem.
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
Reading history and biography. Music – classical, folk, county, bluegrass, jazz, rock. From Bartok to Dolly Parton.
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
My boss in college, a terrific sports publicity director named Dick Gordon, who was very good to me, said I was not aggressive enough to be a journalist and I should consider teaching or the law. It ticked me off, and made me think and perhaps push myself even harder.
What is your favorite quote?
The Serenity Prayer.
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
(I first heard it when I was 41 and working on a book about Bob Welch, a young baseball player who is an alcoholic. I spent a week at the same treatment center where he had gone, and the prayer, and the process, has greatly added to my life ever since.)
What is the question most commonly asked by your readers? What is the answer?
Q: How can I get into sportswriting? I love sports and know all the averages.
A: That’s not the same thing as being a journalist. Besides, it’s a dying industry. (This answer is aimed at keeping only the strong from going into the business.)
What inspired you to write your first book?
That was over 40 years ago. I was ambitious. Needed the money. Somebody asked me to write a book for children on Baseball’s Most Valuable Players, so I did. I’ve had more inspiration for some subsequent books..
Where do you write?
I have my own office in our big and beautiful house that my artist-wife has created. I am an early person, make the coffee, read the New York Times (the real paper, not the web) for a few minutes, and then try to be at my desk by 8 AM, most days in the week. I work till lunch time, and get my exercise, social contact, entertainment, reading, house chores, later. Writing comes first. I love to write. The laptop has made writing so much easier. I’m very happy typing away for hours.