The contemporary writer I most admire is Ted Conover. He grew up in Denver (and like me, attended Denver Public Schools K-12), but that’s not the only reason I like him. It’s not even that I particularly like his writing style. What I like is his modus operandi. For his first book, Rolling Nowhere (1983), he rode America’s rails with the hoboes. This led him to his second book, Coyotes (1987). For Coyotes, he immersed himself in the lives of illegal immigrants (many of whom he met while traveling with hoboes). He went to their home villages in Mexico and was smuggled with them into the United States. For his third book, Whiteout (1991), he lived in Aspen for a year or so and worked as a tax driver among other odd jobs. Whiteout was about life in a resort mountain town. His crowning achievement, to my mind, is his fourth book, Newjack (2000), which documents the year he spent as a correctional officer in Sing-Sing. Conover doesn’t just interview a bunch of people and write a book. He lives a different life for a while and writes about it.
Mark Bowden is another writer I liike. It might be more accurate to say I envy him. He’s written some books I would have enjoyed writing: Black Hawk Down (1999); Killing Pablo (2001); and this book on the Iranian Hostage Crisis that is so much like a book I’ve had on my mind for a long time. By the way, his Iranian Hostage Crisis book is now due to come out in April.