Monday, April 23, 2007

David Halberstam R.I.P.

Pulitzer winning author David Halberstam was arguably one of the most versatile writers of the 20th century. He was a prize winning journalist who worked for well respected newspapers, but he also managed to write two novels. Primarily, however, when not writing as a reporter, Halberstam wrote books. And he wrote them on a wide array of subjects, from the Vietnam War (The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam during the Kennedy Era and The Best and the Brightest to the decade of the Fifties (The Fifties) to baseball (The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship). In all, he wrote about twenty different books, in addition to his many articles over the years.

Sadly, David Halberstam died earlier today in an automobile accident. He was 73 years of age.

David Halberstam was born April 10, 1934 in New York City. His father was a surgeon in the U. S. Army and the family moved frequently. Eventually they settled in Yonkers, New York. There Halberstam wrote for the school paper at Roosevelt High. He attended Harvard where he was the managing editor of the school's daily, the Harvard Crimson. He graduated in 1955 with a degree in Journalism.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s he worked at the Nashville Tennesseean, where he covered the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. He eventually took a job at the Daily Times Leader in West Point, Mississippi to be closer to events linked to Civil Rights. In 1960 he became part of the New York Times Washington bureau. It was that same year that he published his first book, The Noblest Roman. In 1962 he was reassigned by the Times to Saigon to cover the ongoing Vietnam War.

David Halberstam wrote 20 books and was working on a 21st on the Korean War. When it came to his books, Halberstam was a bit of a jack of all trades, covering a wide range of subjects. His books The Noblest Roman and One Very Hot Day were novels. His book The Best and the Brightest covered the origins of the Vietnam War. His book The Powers That Be chronicled the beginnings of modern media as a tool for political power. His book Firehouse covered Engine 40 Ladder 35 in New York City during the September 11, 2001 crisis. His book The Fifties simply covered that decade in loving detail.

Over the years David Halberstam won George Polk Award for his coverage of Vietnam and the Pulitzer for International Reporting.

I have always been a big fan of David Halberstam. I think my favourite that he wrote was The Fifties. As a pop culture buff it was a definite must read, with so much information on a variety of subjects that it would be impossible to list them briefly. He was a gifted writer, who was capable of covering complex subjects, but doing so in such a way that he did not make them sound dry and boring. I must say that I am very saddened by this death.

1 comment:

d. chedwick bryant said...

I know I have read at least two of Halberstam's books, but the one that I read and quoted from was "The Reckoning" It seems to me that this book started me reading about Lee Iococca and really thinking about
the way Americans do business and the way that the Japanese do business.
He took a subject and made it highly readable. It is a shame he died.