by Robert Ward
“Ward tells fascinating stories about fascinating people…this makes great reading.”
Throughout the 70s and 80s, author Robert Ward lived a whirlwind life.
After publishing Shedding Skin in 1972, a novel that won a National Endowment for the Arts Award and that Publishers Weekly called, ““The quintessential hippie ’60s novel,” Robert Ward decided to give journalism a try.
What followed were two decades of assignments for New Times, GQ, SPORT, Rolling Stone, and other publications, covering the biggest stars of the sporting, music, art, and film worlds. This collection includes Ward’s celebrated story on Reggie Jackson that nearly tore the New York Yankees apart (and was later brought to life in an ESPN mini-series “The Bronx is Burning”), a profile of the “outlaw” country music movement of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, and David Allan Coe and an insightful feature on Hustler publisher Larry Flynt as a young pornographer that almost cost Ward his life.
Also included are essays about: The former premier of Vietnam Nguyen Cao Ky trying to adjust to life in California, an aging Lee Marvin dealing with the survivor’s guilt from his time in World War II, an unsigned Bruce Springsteen playing his legendary showcase show, and profiles of Dr. J, LeRoy Nieman, Richard Pryor, Robert Mitchum, Tom Waits, and a variety of fringe characters on the American scene.
In addition to the articles, Ward has written an essay tying these stories and the story of his life together.
“Novelist Ward presents a collection of previously published pieces from his freelance days in the 1960s–70s writing for New Times, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and more. Ward frames these 17 articles with more recent writing, providing a deeper look into the (often dangerous) situations in which his interviews took place. His opening line as he primes his tape recorder and starts his interviews has always been “I’m here to set the record straight.” Ward tackles each interview with a keen sense of passion for his subjects. Highlights include a conversation with former prime minister of Vietnam, Nguyê˜n Cao Ky`, the twisted tale of “The Mount Kisco Sting,” and the infamous interview with Reggie Jackson that nearly tore the New York Yankees apart…this is essential reading for those interested in new journalism.”
“After he published his comic novel Shedding Skin in 1972, Ward, feeling pressure from some of his New Left friends, undertook a Serious Novel—and wound up abandoning it due to a total lack of commitment to the material. But his affection for the new, personal style of reportage, the New Journalism of Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson, turned him in a new direction: writing magazine profiles. This collection of essays is sure to appeal to fans of those writers. Ward tells fascinating stories about fascinating people, but unlike traditional journalism, the author is a key element in his stories. His profile of Larry Flynt, at the time a newcomer to the world of pornography, is as much about the author’s reaction to Flynt as it is about the man himself; his piece about Clint Eastwood, written when Eastwood was making the transition from maligned actor to respected filmmaker, explores the author’s own shifting feelings about his subject. For fans of first-person journalism, this makes great reading.”