About Charles Slack
Charles Slack is the award-winning author of several books. His latest, Liberty’s First Crisis: Adams, Jefferson and the Misfits Who Saved Free Speech, was published in March 2015 by Grove Atlantic. The paperback was released in March 2016. Hetty, based on the life of Wall Street pioneer Hetty Green, won the 2005 Connecticut State Book Award for Biography and the Elle Magazine Reader Prize for Biography. Noble Obsession was based on the life of inventor Charles Goodyear. The New York Public Library named Noble Obsession one of the 25 best “Books to Remember” for 2002. Blue Fairways, an American journey based on a trip down the East Coast from Maine to Florida, one public golf course at a time, was a finalist for the United States Golf Association’s International Book Award.
A graduate of Harvard, Slack was a newspaper reporter in Tennessee and Virginia before turning to writing and editing full-time. He works as a business and financial writer and editor and lives in Connecticut with his family.
I was born in Madison, Wisconsin and moved with my family to Newton, Massachusetts, outside of Boston, when I was ten. Though I never quite acquired the accent, and haven’t lived there since shortly after college, I think of myself as a Bostonian.
The two things I wanted to be from a very early age were a pro quarterback and a writer. The quarterback dream lasted through high school and one year of college football. The fact that I turned to writing as the way to earn my living attests to the modest role that practicality has played in shaping my career. Still, all these years later I have held fast to one of my two boyhood dreams, through twists, turns, closed doors and unexpected opportunities, and this has convinced me that in life, as in love, practicality isn’t everything.
I parlayed my experience as an editor on my college newspaper into a job as a cub reporter for the Chattanooga Times in Tennessee. I had two wonderful years covering everything from county fairs to murder trials, and then left the paper and spent a summer on an island on a lake in northern Maine writing a novel about a young newspaper reporter who is writing a novel—thus forever affixing my own cautionary asterisk to the adage, “Write what you know.” With that effort tucked safely away on a shelf, unpublished, I returned to the newspaper business as a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The first book for which I would find a publisher came several years later, when I had started playing golf. What would it be like, I wondered, to travel America via its golf courses, getting to know perfect strangers in big cities and small towns, one five-hour round at a time?
Just before Blue Fairways, came out, I left my job at the newspaper, convinced that my book would sell a million copies and I would then be able to write whatever I wanted for the rest of my life. Instead, my book got nice reviews and sold some copies. And then I found myself with a wife and two kids and no job and no stream of royalties. It turned out to be the best decision of my life.
Everybody had asked how I could give up such a secure position on the newspaper. That was 1998, when the idle speculation in the newsroom was whether this new Internet thing would have any impact on newspapers. Thus spared from sticking around to witness the decline of the newspaper industry, I built a career as a freelance business writer for corporations. This has provided a steady living as I have continued to write books and even tried my hand at screenwriting.
After Blue Fairways, I found myself gravitating towards historic nonfiction, with tales of mad inventors (Noble Obsession), financiers (Hetty) and martyrs for liberty (Liberty’s First Crisis). I never set out to write history, per se; like most writers I’m always looking for a great story to tell. Maybe it’s just because there are so many great stories buried there. My newest book, Liberty’s First Crisis (March 2015) explores individual liberty and freedom of speech.