Do you live in Greenwich?
Yes, since 1964.
Are you married?
Yes to Luci. We've been married 51 years.
Do you have any children?
One son, two grandchildren.
Are you retired?
No. I have three books on the way.
What do you do full time?
I've been a journalist and writer. My whole life is devoted to the written word. My first job was as a reporter-photographer with the Brownsville Herald in Texas. I had the police beat. I covered the Border Patrol and the Texas Rangers. I covered the poverty and striking spirit of those who lived across the Rio Grande. My city editor was a stringer for Life Magazine and recommended me as a stringer. That started a 15-year association with Life.
What was a highlight working for Life?
I covered the assassination of President Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis. I was in a Grumman Goose flying along the coast of Cuba when we spotted the Russian freighter carrying missiles to Cuba that the U.S. Navy was forcing to turn back. We were taking pictures of the ship turning around when a Navy bomber attempted to force our plane off target. But we got the picture. The photo was a two page spread in Life with my story.
When did your book writing begin?
I wrote 10-15 books while at Life -- for the Time-Life Books series. That lifestyle fitted me. I felt perfectly free and able to write about history. I wrote a series of historical novels called The American Story of which the first novel, "Dream West," became a mini-series on CBS. It's a story about John Fremont and the opening of the Oregon Trail.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I had no idea what I wanted to be. My father joined the National Guard at age 16, serving in WWI. He was gassed five times, and came out a sergeant. He then served as an Army Veterinary career officer in World War II and in Korea. My mother was an English teacher. When I was seven I wrote my first story about a veterinarian who saved animals. At 17, I joined the Navy as an electrician mate, third class, and served two years in the Pacific Theater on the battleship USS Texas during the last two years of World War II. After the war I joined the Merchant Marine and sailed on Victory ships -- I had wanderlust. I went to Japan and Korea.
What are your main hobbies and interests?
I liked boating and sailing including frostbiting. But I wasn't a rules man on the water so I had to give it up. I liked hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Pound Ridge Reservation and any other hiking place Luci and I could get to.
Are you computer savvy? Do you blog or twitter?
I'm computer savvy, but how well I used it is another question. Blogging is not writing. It's finding somebody's ear for what you did this morning.
Do you have a favorite sport?
Bull fighting, when I lived on the Texas-Mexico border.
Do you have a favorite book?
"Meriwether," the last book I wrote. It's about the Lewis and Clark expedition. "War and Peace," "Winds of War," (Horace?)Walpole.
Do you have a favorite work of art?
Picasso's La Guernica.
What music do you listen to and what is a favorite piece of music?
Do you have a favorite movie?
"The Best Years of Our Lives."
Who do you think was the best President of the United States?
Washington. He held the country together.
If you could tell the president of the United States one thing now, what would it be?
Hang tough. He's just begun to see things go sour. There could be all kinds of hell that could happen around his reelection. If things are bad he'll pay a terrific penalty.
What is your greatest guilty pleasure?
Talking about myself. Somehow, every conversation leads me to a story.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
People mowing and hedge cutting on a summer evening.
Do you have any regrets in life?
That I didn't write books fast enough. That there's not enough time to do what I wanted to do.
What achievements in your life are you most proud of?
Keeping going in the face of illness. The problem with Parkinson's is you're doing everything against the tide.
Best piece of advice for the younger generation?
I never found the younger generation cared what I had to say. One thing I've learned growing older is the wisdom of minding my own business.
What are you deeply concerned about?
The population explosion. There are a lot of people who are here and who are certain to be coming here (Nathaniel Witherell). Problems are going to be more difficult to handle. It's going to be difficult to address and visualize what can happen.
What are you looking forward to?
To get finished with this interview.