View Full Version : Author David Halberstam has died

04-23-2007, 07:31 PM
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who chronicled the Washington press corps, the Vietnam War generation and baseball, was killed in a car crash early Monday, a coroner said. He was 73.

Halberstam, a New Yorker, was a passenger in a car that was broadsided by another vehicle near in Menlo Park, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said.

"Looking at the accident and examining him at the scene indicated it's most likely internal injuries," Foucrault said.

Three others were injured.


04-23-2007, 07:56 PM
sad very good author on many topics

04-23-2007, 08:01 PM
very sad indeed

04-23-2007, 08:54 PM
He was prolific in many fields. For baseball, his Summer of 49 was an excellent book on the game. He also wrote October 1964 about the Cardinals Yankees World Series and the difference between the two teams and their styles of baseball.

A review of that book on Amazon wrote:

Heroes have a habit of growing larger over time, as do the arenas in which they excelled. The 1964 World Series between the Yankees and Cardinals was coated in myth from the get-go. The Yankees represented the establishment: white, powerful, and seemingly invincible. The victorious Cards, on the other hand, were baseball's rebellious future: angry and defiant, black, and challenging. Their seven-game barnburner, played out against a backdrop of an America emerging from the Kennedy assassination, escalating the war in Vietnam, and struggling with civil rights, marked a turning point--neither the nation, nor baseball, would ever be quite so innocent again. Halberstam, one of the great reporters of the '60s, looks back in this marvelous and spirited elegy to the era, the game, and players such as Mantle, Maris, Ford, Gibson, Brock, and Flood with a clear eye in search of the truth that time has blurred into legend. His confident prose, diligent reporting, and deft analysis make it clear how much more interesting--and forceful--the truth can be.

Likewise, his book The Fifties was also a very good volume - very interesting read on what many view as a bland decade, but which made way for the turbulent 1960's and beyond.

Gainesville Red
04-23-2007, 09:07 PM
This is a real shame. I really like Halberstam. Summer of 49 and October 64 are two of my favorite books.

Caveat Emperor
04-23-2007, 09:51 PM
Teammates was one of the best books I've read in recent memory.

Halberstam spoke at my graduation down at Tulane in 2003. Fascinating individual and an amazing writer. He will be missed.

04-24-2007, 12:09 AM
I loved The breaks of the game he made people same so human that is hard to do in a book

04-24-2007, 12:10 AM

David Halberstam, 73, War Reporter and Author, Is Killed in a Car Crash

Published: April 24, 2007

David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and tireless author of books on topics as varied as America’s military failings in Vietnam, the deaths of firefighters at the World Trade Center and the high-pressure world of professional basketball, was killed yesterday in a car crash south of San Francisco. He was 73, and lived in Manhattan.

Mr. Halberstam was a passenger in a car making a turn in Menlo Park, Calif., when it was hit broadside by another car and knocked into a third vehicle, said the San Mateo County coroner. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The man who was driving Mr. Halberstam, a journalism student at the University of California at Berkeley, was injured, as were the drivers of the other two vehicles. None of those injuries were called serious.

Mr. Halberstam was killed doing what he had done his entire adult life: reporting. He was on his way to interview Y. A. Tittle, the former New York Giants quarterback, for a book about the 1958 championship game between the Giants and the Baltimore Colts, considered by many to be the greatest football game ever played.

Tall, square-jawed and graced with an imposing voice so deep that it seemed to begin at his ankles, Mr. Halberstam came into his own as a journalist in the early 1960s covering the nascent American war in South Vietnam for The New York Times.

His reporting, along with that of several colleagues, left little doubt that a corrupt South Vietnamese government supported by the United States was no match for Communist guerrillas and their North Vietnamese allies. His dispatches infuriated American military commanders and policy makers in Washington, but they accurately reflected the realities on the ground.

For that work, Mr. Halberstam shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1964. Eight years later, after leaving The Times, he chronicled what went wrong in Vietnam — how able and dedicated men propelled the United States into a war later deemed unwinnable — in a book whose title entered the language: “The Best and the Brightest.”

Mr. Halberstam went on to write more than 20 books, including one on the Korean War scheduled to be published in the fall.

“I think the work he was proudest of was his trilogy on war,” his wife, Jean Halberstam, said last night. Besides “The Best and the Brightest,” she was referring to a study of United States policies in the 1990s called “War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton and the Generals,” and the Korean War book, “The Coldest Winter.”

Mr. Halberstam’s range, however, extended well beyond war. His interests roamed from basketball to the auto industry, from the 1949 American League pennant race to the rise of modern media conglomerates in the 20th century.

“A writer should be like a playwright — putting people on stage, putting ideas on stage, making the reader become the audience,” he recently told an interviewer for NY1 News.

Over the years, he developed a pattern of alternating a book with a weighty theme with one that might seem of slighter import but to which he nonetheless applied his considerable reportorial muscles. “He was a man who didn’t have a lazy bone in his body,” said the writer Gay Talese, a close family friend.

Almost invariably, Mr. Halberstam wrote about sports in those alternate books. “They were his entertainments,” his wife said. “They were his way to take a break.”

As a result, his book on the media, “The Powers That Be,” was followed by a basketball book, “The Breaks of the Game.” A study of the decline of the American automobile industry and the Japanese ascension, “The Reckoning,” was followed before long by “The Summer of ’49,” on an epic pennant battle between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Other works included “The Fifties,” a look at a decade that he argued was more monumental than many believed; “The Children,” about the civil-rights movement of the 1960s; and “Firehouse,” a study of the tight-knit world of New York firefighters, focused on 13 men from a firehouse near his Upper West Side home who went to the World Trade Center on 9/11. Only one survived.

David Halberstam was born on April 10, 1934, in New York City, to an Army surgeon, Dr. Charles A. Halberstam, and a schoolteacher, Blanche Levy Halberstam. His older brother, Michael, became a well-known cardiologist in Washington. In 1980, Michael Halberstam was shot in his home and killed by an intruder.

After World War II, the Halberstam family moved to Westchester County. David attended school in Yonkers, and then went to Harvard, where he graduated in 1955. By then, his commitment to journalism had been sealed. He was managing editor of the student newspaper, The Crimson.

After graduation, he went south and wrote about the nascent civil-rights movement, first for The West Point Daily Times Leader in Mississippi, then for The Nashville Tennessean. In 1960 he joined The New York Times, first in the Washington bureau, then as a foreign correspondent based in Congo.

It was when he went to South Vietnam in 1962 that he began to leave an indelible journalistic mark.

He soon saw that the American-backed government in Saigon was corrupt and failing — and he said so. William Prochnau, who wrote a book on the reporting of that period, “Once Upon a Distant War,” said last night that Mr. Halberstam and other American journalists then in Vietnam were incorrectly regarded by many as antiwar.

“He was not antiwar,” Mr. Prochnau said. “They were cold war children, just like me, brought up on hiding under the desk.” It was simply a case, he said, of American commanders lying to the press about what was happening in Vietnam. “They were shut out and they were lied to,” Mr. Prochnau said. And Mr. Halberstam “didn’t say, ‘You’re not telling me the truth.’ He said, ‘You’re lying.’ He didn’t mince words.”

President John F. Kennedy was so incensed by Mr. Halberstam’s war coverage that he strongly suggested to The Times’s publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, that the reporter be replaced. Mr. Sulzberger replied that Mr. Halberstam would stay where he was. He even had the reporter cancel a scheduled vacation so that no one would get the wrong idea.

After Vietnam and after winning his Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Halberstam was assigned to the Times bureau in Warsaw. There, he met an actress, Elzbieta Czyzewska, whom he married in 1965. That marriage was short-lived. In 1979, he married Jean Sandness, then a writer.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by their daughter, Julia, also of Manhattan.

By the late 1960s, Mr. Halberstam tired of daily journalism and he left The Times, not exactly on mutually amicable terms. After that, he devoted himself to books, magazine articles and even a Vietnam-based novel, “One Very Hot Day.”

In the recent NY1 interview, Mr. Halberstam summed up his approach to work by quoting a basketball player. “There’s a great quote by Julius Erving,” he said, “that went, ‘Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don’t feel like doing them.’ ”

Chip R
04-24-2007, 12:20 AM
I just recently finished reading "The Children". I must have about 8 of his books. Very sad to hear about this. He will be missed.

04-24-2007, 08:11 AM
I just recently finished reading "The Children". I must have about 8 of his books. Very sad to hear about this. He will be missed.

The Children was my favorite Halberstam book. Truly excellent work... one of many. He will be missed.

04-24-2007, 09:34 AM
One of his best books is the Reckoning (http://www.amazon.com/Reckoning-David-Halberstam/dp/0688048382), a book about the decline of Ford vs the rise of Toyota.

And adding to the irony of his sudden death his this headline I saw today.

Toyota Overtakes G.M. in Sales for First Time

04-24-2007, 11:02 AM
Teammates was one of the best books I've read in recent memory.

Great book. I read that one last year.

I'm really sad to hear about this. :(

04-24-2007, 11:13 AM
Great book. I read that one last year.

I'm really sad to hear about this. :(

Yes it was a great book, as was Summer of 49. Great writer that will be missed. :(

04-24-2007, 11:18 AM
Mr. Halberstam was a great writer. RIP.

Chip R
04-24-2007, 11:19 AM
I forgot about "The Teammates". I think I have that one too.

04-24-2007, 11:35 AM
I just recently finished reading "The Children". I must have about 8 of his books. Very sad to hear about this. He will be missed.

I had forgotten that book when I posted my first item, but that was an incredibly moving book.

04-24-2007, 12:11 PM
I remember really enjoying his book on crew "The Amateurs." It tought me my first Russian curse words.:D

Chip R
04-25-2007, 03:29 PM
Interesting, and none too flattering, article in Slate about Halberstam.


04-25-2007, 03:37 PM
Interesting, and none too flattering, article in Slate about Halberstam.


Great responses to that grave dancing creep.


Roy Tucker
04-25-2007, 04:05 PM
Lots and lots of very interesting stuff at http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/h/david_halberstam/index.html

04-26-2007, 04:54 PM
I enjoyed Halberstam's baseball books "Summer of '49," "October 1964" and "The Teammates," all of which I thought were well written. Bill James did point out years ago that Halberstam made factual errors in his book "Summer of '49," and he did, as Halberstam evidently was ignorant of sabermetrics and even made some very basic errors, but I enjoyed all the books anyway.