For a very long time, I've wanted to write fiction and after a long career in University Education, I've devoted myself to writing novels and short stories. There is a great deal that is compelling and attractive about literary prose: particularly, the ability to enter into the thoughts of characters, the opportunity to write dialogue and conversation, but most of all, the possibilities that lie with freeing the imagination. When I write a novel or story, I anticipate the ending first of all and then work backwards to get to that point, allowing my characters to act in ways that are sometimes unexpected, even to me. I have so far written three types of fiction. The first is a mystery series with the amateur sleuth, Amanda Pennyworth, the American consul to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The second category is the short story collection all of which revolve around a particular place and time period with characters who know each other and interact. The third example is novels that are vaguely based on experiences I have had or family members I have known, although these are much changed and reconfigured.
Bloom Township High School: a large comprehensive, urban high school outside of Chicago where I was editor of the student newspaper.
Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota: Graduated Magna Cum Laude; awarded Woodrow Wilson Two-Year Fellowship for graduate school.
University of Wisconsin: M.A. (1963); Ph.D. (1966) in American History
University of Maryland, History Department (1966-2012) Also Visiting Chair, Department of Art-Art History
Distinguished University Professor
University of Virginia
University of Paris
Uppsala University, Sweden: Awarded Honorary Doctor of Letters
Sydney University, Australia
Tubingen University, Germany
Erfurt University, Germany (Two Appointments)
I grew up in a small golfing village south of Chicago, but had the great good fortune to attend a large high school in a neighboring industrial city where I was able to shrug off some of the parochialism of my home town. In my senior year, I became editor of the student newspaper. I attended Carleton College for my undergraduate education: a somewhat cloistered and provincial place at that time, but offering a superb broad curriculum in the liberal arts. I started off majoring in English literature, spent my junior year in London and Paris, and when I returned, I drifted into American Studies my final year. Next came the university of Wisconsin where I entered the American History program and encountered a remarkable, cosmopolitan student body and a sophisticated and renowned faculty. The atmosphere was both vibrant intellectually and super-charged politically with opposition to the ongoing War in Vietnam. During my final two years I married and had one daughter.
After earning my Ph.D., I was hired as a junior faculty member at the University of Maryland, where, aside from several years teaching elsewhere, I spent my entire career. During that this time I published eleven historical works and participated in writing an American History textbook. My greatest joy, at Maryland, aside from researching and publishing and interacting with colleagues were the many graduate students that I helped steer through to their degrees.
Although this brief biography sketches the bare outlines of an academic career in teaching, mentoring and publishing, it does not reveal anything of the evolution in my thinking that eventually led me to the writing of fiction. Most historians would probably admit that history and literature are closely related, sharing something of the same structures of plot, story, and the revelation of character. Perhaps because of this affinity and my background in literature, I was finally drawn to writing fiction. That has become my new profession.