Blackman, Ann

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Blackman, Ann


Married Michael Putzel (a White House correspondent for the Boston Globe); children: two. Education: Earned degrees from Colby-Sawyer College, 1966; University of Paris, Sorbonne, 1967; and University of Connecticut, 1968.


Home—Washington, DC.


Writer and journalist. Reporter with Bergen Record, Hackensack, NJ, and Boston Globe, Boston, MA; Associated Press, national correspondent, 1969-85; Time, Washington deputy bureau chief, 1985-87, foreign correspondent in Moscow, 1987-90, special correspondent, 1993-2001; freelance writer, 2001—.


Seasons of Her Life: A Biography of Madeleine Korbel Albright, Scribner (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Elaine Shannon) The Spy Next Door: The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Damaging FBI Agent in U.S. History, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.

Wild Rose: Rose O'Neale Greenhow, Civil War Spy, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.


Ann Blackman has written much about politics and social policy in her long career as a Washington correspondent. Blackman first honed her reportorial skills at the Boston Globe and at the Bergen Record before signing on as a national correspondent for the Associated Press in 1969. During her fifteen-year stint there, Blackman covered such big stories as the Watergate hearings, national political conventions, the Iranian hostage crisis, and the attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life. She was also a member of the Associated Press's "Mod Squad," a team of reporters who wrote about the social upheaval of the 1960s. Time magazine hired Blackman as Washington deputy bureau chief in 1985. From 1987 to 1990 she worked as a foreign correspondent for the magazine in Moscow. Subsequently Blackman returned to Washington, DC, where her duties have included covering Hillary Clinton and writing about U.S. social policy. She has contributed to Time cover stories on such subjects as human cloning, infertility, feminism, and cruelty to animals.

In 1996 Blackman undertook researching and writing a biography of Madeline Albright, the first female U.S. secretary of state and, in fact, the holder of the highest federal office ever attained by a woman. Seasons of Her Life: A Biography of Madeleine Korbel Albright (1998) refers to four seasons in Albright's life—as a young girl in Czechoslovakia; as a struggling immigrant student and graduate student; as wife of millionaire newspaper scion Joseph Medill Paterson Albright in an ultimately failed marriage; and as a foreign policy expert plying her trade in academia, as ambassador to the United Nations, and in the State Department. Bill Clinton's appointment of Albright as secretary of state drew controversy because of her relative lack of experience in the diplomatic trenches. The press criticized her for—among other things—her handling of U.S. response to the Somalia War when she was in the United Nations and her denying knowledge of her family's Jewish ancestry when the story broke in 1997.

Perhaps Albright's defining moment was her tough-talking stance against strongman Slobodan Milosevic during the 1998-99 Kosovo crisis. Blackman describes that period and a good portion of the rest of Albright's life in the biography. Blackman interviewed some 200 people, including Albright, and she scoured archives and libraries in Czechoslovakia, Britain, and the United States. Her diligent research paid off. Washington Monthly reviewer Wayne Biddle noted that the biography contains "much about Czechoslovakia before, during, and after World War II; foreign policy luminaries of the Democratic Party; [and] the ever-evolving roles of Washington society wives (and ex-wives)."

Not skimping on the personal details, Blackman devotes the first third of the biography to the influence of Albright's father, Josef Korbel, on her subject's life. He was a Czechoslovakian diplomat to Yugoslavia who fled the Czech Communist state and eventually settled into an academic's life in the United States. Albright's own career choices prove that she is her father's daughter. Another event that shaped Albright's life was suffering through a divorce that she did not initiate nor want. She used her millions from the divorce settlement to network through the "political salons" that she hosted. She became foreign policy advisor to Michael Dukakis during his presidential campaign, and in 1989 she successfully pushed for Bill Clinton's membership in the Council on Foreign Relations.

Seasons in Her Life has received many favorable notices. Kirkus Reviews called it "a balanced, penetrating look at Albright as a person. Blackman acknowledges Albright's considerable accomplishments without making her into a saint, exposing qualities that have helped her succeed but are not always positive." Nation reviewer Ian Williams took Blackburn to task for not holding Albright under a harsher light, but noted that "Blackman's journalistic integrity rescues this book from the hagiographic gushing that it occasionally approaches." Washington Monthly's Biddle sounded a similar note: "To Blackman's credit, there is a great deal of leg work here, yet the effort amounts to a celebratory portrait of its subject, not a critical look." New York Times Book Review critic Jacob Heilbrunn praised Blackburn, though, for doing "a fine job of explaining Albright's astonishing ascent" and for writing "with economy and dispatch."

In 2001, Blackman left Time magazine to devote full time to book-length works. Her second biographical book, The Spy Next Door: The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Damaging FBI Agent in U.S. History, coauthored with Elaine Shannon, appeared the following year. In it, Blackman details the life and career of Hanssen, a mole in the FBI who handed over sensitive materials to the Soviet KGB from 1979 to 1991. He did so in part for money, but also for the praise of his Soviet handlers, for he felt underappreciated in his role as FBI agent. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Hanssen paused in his spying, but he was back at it in 1999, working for the revamped Russian spy agency, the SVR, until his arrest in 2001. Hanssen lasted so long as an undercover spy because outwardly he appeared to be the perfect FBI agent, father of six, and a devout Catholic. Among the damaging information Hanssen gave to the Soviets were the names of Russians working for the CIA; many of these agents met their deaths because of Hanssen's betrayal. Reviewing the biography in the Washington Post Book World, Allen Weinstein thought it "provides a detailed and meticulous chronological tracing of Hanssen's life and times, from cradle to capture." Specifically, the authors draw on fresh interviews to demonstrate how the FBI was finally able to track down the mole in their midst. Writing for Library Journal, Tim Delaney termed The Spy Next Door an "intriguing story," as well as "an in-depth analysis of a hypocritical man consumed with possessing power over others."

Working on her own, Blackman produced the 2007 biography, Wild Rose: Rose O'Neale Greenhow, Civil War Spy, again focusing on the world of espionage. Here Blackman looks at the life of the famous Confederate spy, Greenhow, who became a Washington fixture, the friend of President James Buchanan. Then, with the onset of the Civil War, she worked to help the South. On July 16, 1861, just five days before the pivotal Battle of Bull Run, she got word to a contact with the Confederate forces that the Union forces were headed for Manassas in northern Virginia. This advance word from Greenhow helped the Confederate forces rout the Union soldiers in the first important engagement in the Civil War, ensuring that the conflict would continue. Found out, Greenhow was imprisoned and later exiled from the North only to serve the South in a mission to Europe under the aegis of Jefferson Davis. She died, however, in an attempt to run the Union blockade; her boat capsized and she drowned.

For Library Journal reviewer Theresa McDevitt, Wild Rose "offers a comprehensive biography of this famous Civil War operative." McDevitt further termed the book a "readable and comprehensive biography." Writing in the Journal of Southern History, Amy Murrell Taylor noted, "Blackman's is not the first biography of Greenhow, but it charts new ground by filling in holes in her life story." More praise for the same title came from a Publishers Weekly reviewer who found it a "literate and thoroughly researched biography [that] does Greenhow justice," and from Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor, who concluded: "Civil War readers will become engrossed in Blackman's able portrait, which summons the zeitgeist of the entire era through one woman's adventurous life." For Washington Post Book World critic Jonathan Yardley, Wild Rose is "as close to a definitive biography as we'll get." Though Yardley felt the book "is not very well written (unless you have a taste for cliches) and Blackman's penchant for foreshadowing becomes exceedingly irritating," he also noted that the author's "research is solid and her judgments about her subject appear to be sound." Higher praise came from Metro magazine reviewer Patricia Staino, who felt Wild Rose "commands attention both as a compelling read and as an important historical biography which uncovers new information about a pivotal, if less widely recognized, heroine in this fascinating chapter of American history." And Hayden B. Peake, writing for the Central Intelligence Agency Web site, declared that the book "is not only a pleasure to read, it is a valuable contribution to the literature of Civil War intelligence."



Booklist, October 15, 1998, Mary Carroll, review of Seasons of Her Life: A Biography of Madeleine Korbel Albright, p. 393; January 1, 2002, Brad Hooper, review of The Spy Next Door: The Extraordinary Secret Life of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Damaging FBI Agent in U.S. History, p. 775; May 15, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of Wild Rose: Rose O'Neale Greenhow, Civil War Spy, p. 1631.

Journal of Southern History, November 1, 2006, Amy Murrell Taylor, review of Wild Rose, p. 951.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1998, review of Seasons of Her Life, p. 1343.

Library Journal, February 15, 2002, Tim Delaney, review of The Spy Next Door, p. 162; May 1, 2005, Theresa McDevitt, review of Wild Rose, p. 97.

Metro (Raleigh, NC), August, 2005, Patricia Staino, review of Wild Rose.

Nation, March 15, 1999, Ian Williams, review of Seasons of Her Life, p. 29.

New York Times Book Review, November 15, 1998, Jacob Heilbrunn, review of Seasons of Her Life, p. 12; February 24, 2002, Benjamin Schwartz, review of The Spy Next Door.

Publishers Weekly, September 21, 1998, review of Seasons of Her Life, p. 36; March 21, 2005, review of Wild Rose, p. 42.

Time, November 9, 1998, review of Seasons of Her Life, p. 114.

Washington Monthly, January, 1999, Wayne Biddle, review of Seasons of Her Life, p. 48.

Washington Post Book World, January 20, 2002, Allen Weinstein, review of The Spy Next Door, p. 3; July 5, 2005, Jonathan Yardley, review of Wild Rose, p. 2.


Central Intelligence Agency Web site, (August 15, 2008), Hayden B. Peake, review of Wild Rose., (August 15, 2008), "Ann Blackman, Correspondent."

Spy Next Door Web site, (August 15, 2008)., (August 15, 2008), "Articles by Ann Blackman."

Wild Rose Web site, (August 15, 2008).