Black, George 1949-

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Black, George 1949-

PERSONAL:

Born 1949, in Cowdenbeath, Scotland; married Anne Nelson (an author and playwright); children: two. Education: Attended Oxford University.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY.

CAREER:

Journalist and writer for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Nation, New Statesman, Mother Jones, and other publications.

WRITINGS:

The Good Neighbor: How the United States Wrote the History of Central America and the Caribbean, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1988.

(With Robin Munro) Black Hands of Beijing: Lives of Defiance in China's Democracy Movement, John Wiley (New York, NY), 1993.

Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign against the Kurds, Human Rights Watch (New York, NY), 1993.

The Trout Pool Paradox: The American Lives of Three Rivers, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.

Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Journalist George Black has published three books on international issues, one each on the prodemocracy movement in China, U.S. involvement in Central America, and the attempted genocide of the Kurds in Iraq. Additionally, Black has published two titles related to his love of fly fishing: The Trout Pool Paradox: The American Lives of Three Rivers and Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection. Black has also written for many newspapers and publications, reporting frequently on foreign affairs and environmental matters.

In Black Hands of Beijing: Lives of Defiance in China's Democracy Movement, Black and coauthor Robin Munro, of the nonprofit organization Human Rights Watch, conducted a far-ranging investigation, interviewing dozens of individuals whom the Chinese government accused of conspiracy and dissent following the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989—those they dubbed "black hands." Their investigation slowly brings into focus the stories of three people: Wang Juntao and Chen Ziming, both imprisoned for editing a journal critical of the government and falsely convicted of planning the Tiananmen Square rally, and Han Dongang, who spoke at the rally and formed China's first democratic trade union. The story of the torture and imprisonment of these leaders after 1989 is "an invaluable glimpse of the regime's methods of repression," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Benedict Stavis, writing in the Political Science Quarterly, concluded that "what makes this book unique among the dozens of Tiananmen Square books is the way it transcends the constraints of documents, journalism, or personal memoirs…. [It is] a very richly textured book, with facts, hopes, motives, and emotions."

Black's love of fishing was slow to take hold; he was over forty when he took up the sport, and only several years later was he captivated enough to explore it through his writing. In The Trout Pool Paradox, he is concerned with the destruction of the Naugatuck River in Connecticut, one of the cradles of American industrialization, and the diverging fate of its sister river, the nearby Shepaug. Both are tributaries of the Housatonic River, and all three share features (they are rocky, fast-flowing, and not conducive to farming) that made them perfect trout pools and also perfect candidates for mills and factories. Black outlines the history of industry on these rivers, which led to the destruction of the Naugatuck and the ironic and simultaneous preservation of the Shepaug. Ultimately, Black praises the modern environmental movement for restoring a sense of stewardship over these places and for reigniting a populist appreciation for the importance of the natural world. A Kirkus Reviews writer summarized the book as "a weapons-grade indictment of river despoliation, and an astute analysis of the socioeconomic factors that affect it."

The history of the fly rod is the subject of Casting a Spell. Though the subject may seem too slight for its own book, it becomes a vehicle through which Black explores "the unquenchable spirit of individual craftsmen," according to John Rowen in a review for Booklist. "With admirable dexterity," writes a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, Black traces the evolution of the modern-day bamboo fly rod, the stranglehold of commercial interests over the sport, and the contributions of the sport's superstars. The result, according to the Publishers Weekly reviewer, is "a metaphor for … how American social and commercial culture has evolved."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, September 1, 2006, John Rowen, review of Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, p. 43; April 1, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of The Trout Pool Paradox: The American Lives of Three Rivers, p. 1335.

Economist, August 12, 2006, review of Casting a Spell, p. 70.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2004, review of The Trout Pool Paradox, p. 207.

Nation, May 4, 1985, Stephen Schlesinger, "Garrison Guatemala," p. 537.

Political Science Quarterly, winter, 1993, Benedict Stavis, review of Black Hands of Beijing: Lives of Defiance in China's Democracy Movement, p. 753.

Publishers Weekly, April 5, 1993, review of Black Hands of Beijing, p. 56; July 10, 2006, review of Casting a Spell, p. 69; February 23, 2004, review of The Trout Pool Paradox, p. 59.

Science News, May 22, 2004, review of The Trout Pool Paradox, p. 335.