(1969) Joe McGinniss was a twenty-six-year-old Philadelphia newspaper columnist when he decided to write a book about the packaging of 1968 presidential candidate Richard Nixon by following his advertising and media people throughout the campaign. The result was a startling, riveting behind-the-scenes narrative of how a political candidate is packaged and sold to the American public. With its lively accounts of the clever and cynical men hired to sell Nixon (including the young and witty Roger Ailes) and its fresh insights into McLuhanesque campaign techniques, The Selling of the President broke the mold for campaign books. Published in 1969, it spent thirty-one weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Still in print more than forty years later, it has become a classic of the genre, a staple in college courses, and a touchstone for anyone writing about the American political process even today. “Overnight, it made Theodore White’s Making of the President campaign books seem wan and dated.” –Dwight Garner, New York Times “Possibly the most irreverent book ever written about a president still occupying the White House.” Sunday Telegraph “McGinniss blessed this land with his book The Selling of the President, 1968.” – Robert Sherrill, Washington Post Book World “Devastatingly funny and angry…McGinniss has given us a damning but terribly amusing picture of the flackery in one campaign…The problem will be around longer than Nixon will…You can read this book and laugh—-or maybe weep a little at how you were sold a president.” –David Broder, Washington Post “Stinging, bitterly comic…What McGinniss saw and heard he has recorded artfully enough to simultaneously entertain us and make us fear for the future of the Republic.” New York Times “An appalled, savage and charming chronicle of Mr. Nixon’s 1968 electoral campaign.” — Murray Kempton, Life Magazine


(1972) Joe McGinniss’s only novel takes readers on a heady, whirlwind trip to the once-glamorous Hialeah race course, and takes the narrator on a heady, whirlwind fling with a groupie that shows you can’t always get what you want, but if you break even in the end, maybe it’s okay. “The message of Joe McGinniss’s first novel, The Dream Team, is to stay away from fast women and slow horses, but the message isn’t what matters here. What matters here is how Mr. McGinniss succeeds in holding our interest through a six-day binge in Miami while old Barnaby tries to handicap the horses at Hialeah, while young Jennifer tries to clutch life to her breast and while the young narrator of their adventures tries to enjoy the fruits of both activities…Bittersweet…Compelling.” –Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times “When someone writes with the ability of Joe McGinniss, mere reading of each sentence is a pleasure…The sentences read so damned well that The Dream Team is a successful novel well worth reading.” –Jimmy Breslin


(1976) Heroes is the sad and searing, but often hilarious chronicle that McGinniss wrote to document his search for the vanished American hero. Containing intimate portraits of Gen. William Westmoreland, Daniel Berrigan, Ted Kennedy, William Styron, Arthur Miller, Eugene McCarthy, Howard Cosell, John Glenn and many others — and a self-portrait some regarded as too intimate — Heroes endures as a cult classic. “Wry and funny and sad and scary. I don’t know how anyone who reads Heroes will not be moved.” –E.L. Doctorow “Heroes is a diary of a tormented nation and a tormented soul, both of which lost their way through success…Joe McGinniss has written a great book.” –Robert A. Caro


(1980) McGinniss headed north to see what was left of the Last Frontier. He discovered, as one reader put it, “mind-bending contradictions”: an ugly underbelly of greed, waste, addictions, and racism that contrasted with the state’s vast, wild natural beauty and its people’s open, independent spirit. Through a colorful series of encounters with bush pilots, boomers, park rangers, bartenders, teachers, journalists, waitresses, politicians, Natives, and a legion of Outsiders looking to get rich quick, McGinniss captures a unique place at a tumultuous time. Going to Extremes is a poignant, funny, and sometimes shocking portrait of a great land in the grip of irreversible changes, a time capsule of personal journalism even more valuable for readers today than it was when first published in 1980. “The richness of McGinniss’s reporting accumulates powerfully…his writing glows invitingly—just as a warm fire does when the temperature outside in Fairbanks is 49 below. Powerful…poignant….hilarious.” Newsweek “Enthralling…McGinniss writes with the uncensored, sensuous perceptions of a naturalistic novelist.” Los Angeles Times Book Review “Perceptive and affecting…a different sort of work from John McPhee’s Coming into the Country. It is a grittier, harder-edged, and more complete picture of what is happening in the ‘real’ Alaska.” Philadelphia Inquirer “Fine reading…thick with whole people, exotic landscapes, the nervous and constant curiosity of an adventurer who knows that the essence of a place is more likely found while chatting in barrooms than while viewing the wondrous works of man and nature.” The Nation “A brilliant book. Mandatory for anyone who wants a sense of what contemporary life in Alska is like. My opinion does not sit well with the locals.  No! they say, McGinniss writes only about the sensational.  Alaska is a sensational place, I reply.  He’s a scandalmonger, they say.  Alaska is a scandalous place, I say; McGinniss tells the truth.” — Edward Abbey “The best nonfiction of the year…One of the most terrifying and splendid pieces of prose in memory.” Boston Globe “Joe McGinniss did not set out to judge or explain, but only to find out what Alaska is. He has succeeded, for almost everything he says is news.” –Paul Theroux, New York Times Book Review


(1983) Fatal Vision tells the story of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, a charismatic, Princeton-educated Green Beret physician who one night in 1970 savagely murdered his pregnant wife and two small daughters. Initially set free by the Army, MacDonald was convicted ten years later, thanks to his father-in-law’s relentless pursuit. McGinniss, who lived with the MacDonald defense during the trial, chronicles every aspect of this horrifying and complex crime, including the dark psyche of MacDonald, a golden boy who on the surface seemed destined to live the American dream. Fatal Vision penetrates to the heart of one of the most notorious and controversial murder cases ever to capture the public’s attention. The book became a bestseller and has remained in print for decades. The NBC miniseries starred Karl Malden as the father-in-law and introduced Gary Cole with an impeccable portrayal of MacDonald.

»Click here to read the 1989 Epilogue

“Mr. McGinniss has delivered the goods here…Fatal Vision smells of integrity, and that’s one of the many things about it that make it irresistible to read, even if its vision of the human soul is somewhat bleak and frightening.” –Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times “This is a wisely observant, well-written, understated book full of truths about people…McGinniss has exercised his customary skill here, far transcending the gore and creepy-crawliness. The mysteries in his story are both eerie and profound.” –Robert Stone, Harper’s Magazine “A haunting resurrection of Crime and Punishment.” Time Magazine “This is the real thing…A terrific book that will keep you up until two in the morning.” Chicago Tribune “Extraordinary, compelling…a book of depth and maturity.” –John Katzenbach, Philadelphia Inquirer


(1989) McGinniss took another look at a family riven by murder in this account of a Toms River, NJ, insurance man, Robert Marshall, who hired Mafia hitmen to kill his wife at a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway. McGinniss drew personally close to Marshall’s two older sons, who shared with him their double heartbreak: learning that their mother had been murdered, and discovering that their father had orchestrated the crime. Blind Faith reached number one on the New York Times best-seller list. The NBC miniseries starred Robert Ulrich and Joanna Kerns. “Suspenseful and engrossing reading, with a courtroom drama that is cathartic as well as gripping.” –Anne Rice, New York Times Book Review “Impossible to put down.” Chicago Tribune “Truly compelling…a harrowing portrait of the perversion of the American dream.”Washington Post “Remarkable…fascinating…a relentlessly true picture of social values gone hellishly wrong.” Newsday “A jittery mix or horror, apprehension and dead certainty…makes the reader dread the conclusion as he flips the pages over faster to get to it.” Los Angeles Times


(1991) With Cruel Doubt, McGinniss completed his family-murder trilogy, unmatched in American letters. Bonnie Von Stein, a North Carolina mother and housewife, awoke in the middle of the night to find assailants beating and stabbing her as she lay in bed with her husband. Her husband died from injuries. Bonnie barely survived, only to find herself suspected of having planned the attack so she could inherit her husband’s fortune. In a twist even more cruel, she came to learn that her own son was involved, acting out a gruesome Dungeons & Dragons scenario. A New York Times best-seller. NBC miniseries starred Gwyneth Paltrow (in her first performance for television) and her mother, Blythe Danner. Cruel Doubt is not only about a crime and a trial and remarkable conflicts of interest. It is also, beneath its surface and within its heart, about Joe McGinniss as quester-for-truth, literary detective, salver and healer.” –Frederick Busch, New York Times Book Review “More a psychodrama than a detective story, McGinniss has drawn a riveting portrait of parental devotion that flies in the face of the truth.” Library Journal “Joe McGinniss just keeps writing stories that transcend the [true crime] genre, and Cruel Doubt is the best of the lot.” –Clarence Petersen, Chicago Tribune “McGinniss is the Alfred Hitchcock of the true-crime genre, a genre he often transcends.” Boston Globe “McGinniss again shows why he heads the ranks of true-crime authors—delivering a page-burner of shifting suspicions, macabre ironies, and reversals of field too extreme for fiction.” Kirkus Reviews “With Cruel Doubt, McGinniss puts more distance between himself and the rest of the pack…He is a touchstone for the traumatized, the troubled, and the treacherous.” Hartford Courant


The Rise and Fall of Teddy Kennedy (1993) The Last Brother examined the life and inner turmoil of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in the sixties, from the time his brother, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated, through his brother, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, and to the end of the decade, when the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick—found drowned in a car Teddy had been driving—assured that he’d never be able to fully follow in his brothers’ footsteps. Much maligned at the time by Kennedy supporters, The Last Brother survives as perhaps the most insightful and sympathetic look at Teddy Kennedy during the most eventful decade of his life and offers an unsparing look at the cynicism that went into the creation of the Kennedy myth. “McGinniss creates a characterization of Ted that is alive and believable, and has a consistent, internal logic…I simply couldn’t put it down.” The Boston Book Review “The year’s most controversial biography…a hell of a read!” Liz Smith “McGinniss makes thoughtful ventures into the soul of the Kennedys and how they created a legend that so beguiled the public.” Miami Herald “Harsh but oddly compassionate…told with verve.” Kirkus Reviews


(1999) When Joe McGininiss traveled to the remote Italian village of Castel di Sangro one summer, he merely intended to spend a season with the local soccer team, which only weeks before had miraculously reached the second-highest professional league in the land. But soon he found himself embroiled with an absurd yet irresistible cast of characters, including the team’s owner, described by the New York Times as “straight out of a Mario Puzo novel,” and coach Osvaldo Jaconi, whose only English word was the one he used to describe himself: “bulldozer.” As the edge-of-your-seat soccer season unfolded, McGinniss developed a deepening bond with the squad, the village, and Italy itself. Traveling with the team from the isolated Abbruzzo region to gritty towns as well as grand cities like Venice, the author introduces us to an Italy that no guidebook has ever described, and comes away with a “sad, funny, desolating and inspiring story—everything, in fact, that a story should be” (Los Angeles Times). “In Italy, soccer is as much a part of life as the church, family, and food. McGinniss discovers this in an intimate way and relates even the innermost details, at his own peril.” Boston Globe “A tragicomic parable, more Machiavelli and Mario Puzo than Dante.” Daily Telegraph “There is something good on every page of this book… You might go to Italy without a ticket to a soccer match, but you shouldn’t go without a copy of The Miracle of Castel di Sangro.” Chicago Tribune “Set in the Abruzzo region of Italy, Miracle is a colorful and compelling entry in the venerable tradition of memoirs by American innocents abroad.” Salon “A classic of cultures colliding.” The Independent “McGinniss went looking for a soccer team and found lives filled with humor and tragedy.” Wall Street Journal “An engaging tale well worth telling, rich in comic incidents, delightful characters and dramatic surprises.” –Bill Barich, New York Times Book Review “We already knew Joe McGinniss could chill our blood (Fatal Vision) and arouse both our pity and distaste for the Kennedys (The Last Brother), but who knew he could be so funny?” – “A tragicomic parable, more Machiavelli and Mario Puzo than Dante.” Daily Telegraph


(2004) In 1971, Joe McGinniss planned to write a book about a summer season spent at Saratoga race course—the epitome of the Sport of Kings in America. His father’s illness and death prevented him from doing so, but more than thirty years later McGinniss returned to Saratoga to pick up the thread. There he met the marvelous P.G. Johnson, who for more than a generation had reigned as one of the leading horse trainers in the U.S. McGinniss soon found that Johnson’s earthy humor, flinty honesty and unflagging courage made the aging trainer a subject unlike any he’d found before: someone he could admire and root for without reservation. Like all true race track stories, The Big Horse ends sadly, but the voice of P.G. Johnson continues to ring loud and clear. “A well-told miniature, the kind of nonfiction work that drops a reader headlong into a subculture and then gradually reveals its secrets.” –David Carr, New York Times “McGinniss is a master storyteller…he paints a compelling and bittersweet picture of the dying sport of horse racing and the dying breed of old school horse trainers…impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly “Perceptive, funny and entertaining.” Booklist “McGinniss has forged an interesting career chronicling his disappointment in men and institutions he once trusted, from his groundbreaking The Selling of the President to his best-selling crime thriller Fatal Vision….[The Big Horse is] a compelling account of what ordinary life is like for a dying breed, in a dying sport in America.” – Elizabeth Mitchell, Los Angeles Times “A meditation about aging and decline…moody and detailed…McGinniss shows that the world of horse racing is still rich in material…a gathering place for eccentrics and misanthropes and wishful thinkers that turns out characters by the carload.” –Jane Smiley, Washinton Post


(2007) !n 2007 McGinniss returned to true crime with this disturbing tale of a family corroded by greed and brought to its knees by two tragic murders. The glamorous Kissels, Robert and Nancy, lived the American expatriate dream in a luxury condo high above Hong Kong’s glittering Victoria Harbor. They had three beautiful children and all the comforts money could buy. But that wasn’t enough. One terrible night, Nancy bludgeoned her husband to death. When arrested, she claimed Rob had abused her and forced her to do unspeakable sexual acts. Despite evidence that Nancy had been carrying on an affair with a blue-collar lover, she pled not guilty by reason of self-defense at trial. Less than two years later, as Nancy fought her conviction on appeal, the shattered Kissel family was dealt another blow. Rob’s younger brother Andrew, a real-estate tycoon facing federal embezzlement charges, was found stabbed to death in his Greenwich, Connecticut, mansion. McGinniss explores what dark impulses and wrong turns led these bright ambitious men to such dreadful ends. “In McGinniss’s compelling account, the Kissel family—full of potential but riven by endless battles among the brothers and their sister and father—represent the American tragedy in which ambition and the pursuit of wealth turn deadly.” Publisher’s Weekly “Twenty years after Gordon Gekko, Never Enough updates its famous mantra. Greed destroys.” –Bob Shachochis, New York Times Book Review “Riveting and compulsively readable. McGinniss patiently unravels the case with plenty of fresh reporting.” Entertainment Weekly “McGinniss brilliantly deconstructs the highly dysfunctional Kissels…you can’t argue with his ability to tell a good story. Readers get front-row seats as someone else’s family horror fest.” USA Today “Readers have a real treat waiting for them in Joe McGinniss’s latest book.” Washington Post


(2011) The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin is a riveting chronicle of Sarah Palin as individual, politician, and cultural phenomenon. McGinniss’s on-the-ground reporting began in late 2008 and culminated in his living next door to Palin in Wasilla, Alaska, during the summer of 2010. The Rogue, a startling and penetrating examination of the illusion and reality of Sarah Palin, also presents an illuminating portrait of the Alaska and the America that produced her. Sometimes funny, sometimes frightening, always provocative,  The Rogue answers the questions: “Who is she, really?“ and “How did she happen? “Plunging into a subject without wearing blinders is an engaging investigative method, and McGinniss, as he always manages to do, pushes the story forward in momentum while continuing to link new material with bits of information from past experiences and interviews. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer

4 Responses to “BOOKS”