John Feinstein spent years on the staff at the Washington Post, as well as writing for Sports Illustrated and the National Sports Daily. He is a commentator on NPR's "Morning Edition," a regular on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters"...read more
John Feinstein spent years on the staff at the Washington Post, as well as writing for Sports Illustrated and the National Sports Daily. He is a commentator on NPR's "Morning Edition," a regular on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters" and a visiting professor of journalism at Duke University.
His first book, A Season on the Brink, is the bestselling sports book of all time. His first book for younger readers, Last Shot, was a bestseller. His current book for younger readers is Vanishing Act.
A conversation with John Feinstein
Q: LAST SHOT and VANISHING ACT feature two budding young journalists. Do you hope to inspire more children to pick up the pen with this novel?
A:I think I'm a little bit like Bobby Kelleher in that I think it is important to steer kids to writing–and journalism–and not TV, which is the easy and popular way to go these days. TV is more glamorous, no doubt, but I know from personal experience that writing–and reporting–is far more fulfilling. I hope this book carries that message in some way...
Q: How old were you when you started writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
A:I spent most of my boyhood planning to be either the point guard for the Knicks or play centerfield for the Mets. By the time I went to college–as a swimmer–I knew that wasn't happening. I started working at the Duke student newspaper as a freshman and was pretty much hooked on journalism by the end of my freshman year.
Q: Several real sports journalists play roles in your books. Are any of them aware that they are in your book? And how do they feel about the way you portray them?
A:All the real people in the book are aware of their, "involvement." Most are amused; some are flattered; Tony Kornheiser has promised to sue me...
Q: LAST SHOT features a serious conspiracy. Has anything comparable ever happened in the history of the Final Four?
A:Point shaving scandals have been a problem in college basketball dating to the 1950s, when the sport was wracked by them, notably at City College of New York (which never recovered) and Kentucky. There have been numerous other point shaving scandals since then: Boston College in the early 80s; Tulane in 1985 and a rumor, never proven, that heavily-favored Nevada-Las Vegas dumped its 1991 Final Four game to Duke.
Q: Your first two books were mysteries. Since then you have written all non-fiction. How did it feel to return to the “whodunit” genre?
A:It was fun writing a mystery again; challenging to try to create a believable story in an environment that actually exists. The main difference between this and my other two mysteries is that the protagonists do not use a lot of the words used by the people in my first two mysteries.
Q: What were some of your favorite books growing up?
A:As a kid I read all the "Hardy Boys," books and "Chip Hilton," and "Bronc Burnett," both series about star athletes. I also read all the Signature and Landmark books, which really got me into history. When I got older I was very into historical novels: Johnny Tremain remains an all time favorite (recently read by my son) and, for some reason, I vividly remember reading, Journey to the Center of the Earth.