Between October 1984 and April 1986, 12 book reviews I wrote were published in The Tennessean (Nashville, TN). I wrote my first review, based on an advance copy of a Paul Theroux book I bought, purely on spec. After I sent it in to the newspaper’s book review editor, Bob Wyatt, he wrote back to say that he had been planning to write a review of the book himself but that I had saved him the trouble. He was gracious enough to invite me to write more, and over the next two years sent me a number of review copies. I probably reviewed about half of them. I stopped writing the reviews when I left Tennessee.
As a lit major and avid reader, I’d always been interested in bookstores. Publishers Weekly magazine had a great section that covered booksellers and I got a lot of inside information from it. At some point in 1985, I think, the section editors published a note inviting submissions of bookstore profiles. Since I had recently written an article for a free weekly paper in Atlanta on the bookstore scene there, I had just the story for PW: a profile of McGuire’s Bookshop in Atlanta. I wrote a query letter to the section editor, Sonja Bolle, and she responded quickly with an assignment. After a few more profiles, my work came to the attention of the magazine’s editor, Daisy Maryles. She asked me to take on a feature story on New Age books, which was followed by two features on alternative health. I wrote most of these articles while employed full-time by magazine publishers; eventually, the workload was just too much, and I bowed out of the freelance market in 1991.
As a book collector and Southern California resident, I had known about Ward Ritchie and his various publishing enterprises for many years when I arrived at Sewanee, TN, as an assistant professor at The University of the South. When I learned in an article in the university alumni publication that Ritchie had briefly attended the college, I proposed an article on Ritchie to the editor in the fall of 1985, prior to a winter break in LA. The proposal accepted, I contacted Ritchie and visited him at his home in Laguna for the interview.
“A Visit with Ward Ritchie,” The Sewanee News, April 1986.