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About & Contact

In November 2022 Mariner Books (HarperCollins) published Our Man in Tokyo: An American Ambassador and the Countdown to Pearl Harbor. It's a behind-the-scenes narrative about the volatile lead-up to the war with Japan, told from the perspective of the American who knew that country best at the time—Joseph C. Grew, the United States ambassador from 1932 to 1942. Our Man in Tokyo won the Dillon Award from the American Academy of Diplomacy as the year's best book about the practice of diplomacy. In 2019 the National Endowment for the Humanities gave me a grant through its Public Scholar Program to support the research and writing.


My previous book, A Splendid Savage: the Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham (W. W. Norton, 2016), is the biography of a man once world-famous as "the American scout." Before that, I wrote A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa (W. W. Norton, 2012), about Heinrich Barth, one of Africa's greatest explorers yet nearly forgotten today. The book is a nonfiction historical adventure that recreates Barth's incredible five-year, 10,000 mile journey in the 1850s. The Boston Globe named Labyrinth one of the best nonfiction books of 2012.


My first book, Code Name Ginger: the Story Behind Segway and Dean Kamen's Quest to Invent a New World (Harvard Business School Press, 2003), was selected by Barnes & Noble for its Discover Great New Writers award. Harper published the paperback under the title Reinventing the Wheel: a Story of Genius, Innovation, and Grand Ambition.


Other credits: Smithsonian, National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, Wall Street Journal, Yankee, National Wildlife, The Ecologist, Plenty, BBC Wildlife, and many other magazines and newspapers. I have taught writing and journalism as an adjunct professor at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and at Fairfield University.


I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduating from the University of Detroit, I taught literature and writing at the University of Connecticut while earning a Ph.D. I've received several awards for my work, as well as grants from the NEH's Public Scholars program for Our Man in Tokyo and from the W. Alton Jones Foundation for an environmental investigation in Bolivia.