Born in Brooklyn and raised in Great Neck, New York, I grew up hearing stories that my immigrant Jewish grandparents told about the “old country” (Russia) that they left at the turn of the last century. How I wish I had recorded and video-taped every one of their memories.
An avid reader for as long as I remember, I graduated from Harvard College in 1975 with a degree in history and literature and went on to New College, Oxford, where I received an MA in English in 1977. After a brief stint in book publishing, I launched my career as a freelance writer. In recent years, I have been writing suspense-driven narrative non-fiction about the lives of people caught up in events beyond their control, be it catastrophic weather, war, or genocide. My 2004 book The Children’s Blizzard, a national bestseller, won the Washington State Book Award and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and was nominated for a Quill Award.
I write frequently for the New York Times Travel Section, and I have also published in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle Times and Seattle Metropolitan.
When I’m not writing or traveling for research, I am usually outdoors trying to tame our large unruly garden north of Seattle, romping with our unruly Labrador retriever pup Patrick, skiing in Washington State’s Cascade Mountains, or hiking in the Wallowa Mountains of northeast Oregon. My wife, Kate O’Neill, and I have raised three wonderful daughters—all grown now and embarked on fascinating lives of their own.