White Collar Reset: The literary road not taken


The year was 1992, the Internet was just emerging from the cloistered servers of academia into the world wide web, and I made what now seems a fateful decision to accept a $2,500 salary hike and switch from writing full-time to being an editor for Baltimore magazine. That summer, a talented young staffer for The Washingtonian named Hampton Sides made the opposite decision, quitting to become a freelance writer. In one of the first stories I ever assigned, I had him spend a weekend reporting on a summer-share house of oversexed yuppies in Dewey Beach, Delaware. The piece was so bawdy, our publisher almost had it killed, and Hampton and I struck up a working friendship.

He soon moved west and settled in Santa Fe, eventually becoming one of the most successful literary nonfiction authors of our generation. His Ghost Soldiers, about the rescue of the Bataan Death March survivors, sold more than 1 million copies and was made into a movie starring James Franco. Blood and Thunder, about Kit Carson and the conquest of the American West, was named one of the top 10 books of the year by Time. Now he's working on a book about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the manhunt for James Earl Ray that is also the basis for an upcoming documentary on PBS's The American Experience.