Fuller, Jack 1946–
Fuller, Jack 1946–
(Jack William Fuller)
PERSONAL: Born October 12, 1946, in Chicago, IL; son of Ernest Brady (a journalist) and Dorothy Voss (a teacher; maiden name, Tegge) Fuller; married Alyce Sue Tuttle (a teacher), June 2, 1973 (marriage ended); married Debra Moskovits (a biologist), June 25, 2004; children: (first marriage) Timothy, Katherine. Ethnicity: "Irish/German." Education: Northwestern University, B.S., 1968; Yale University, J.D., 1973. Hobbies and other interests: Jazz, flyfishing
ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Tribune Publishing Co., 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL, 60611. Agent—Gail Hochman, Brant & Brant, 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.
CAREER: Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL, reporter, 1973–75; U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, special assistant to the attorney general, 1975–76; Chicago Tribune, Washington correspondent, 1977–78, editorial writer, 1978–79, deputy editorial page editor, 1979–82, editorial page editor, 1982–87, executive editor, 1987–89, editor, 1989–93, president and publisher, 1993–97; Tribune Publishing Co., Chicago, president, 1997–2004; freelance writer, 2004–. Admitted to the bar, State of Illinois, 1974; University of Chicago, member of executive committee of board of trustees; Field Museum, member of board of trustees; member of board of directors, MacArthur Foundation and Torstar Corp. Military service: U.S. Army, combat correspondent for Stars and Stripes, 1969–70; served in Vietnam.
MEMBER: Inter American Press Association (past president), American Academy of Arts and Science, Inter-American Dialogue.
AWARDS, HONORS: Gavel Award, American Bar Association, 1979, for a Tribune magazine article about the U.S. Supreme Court; Cliff Dweller's Award, Friends of Literature of Chicago, 1983, for Convergence; Friends of American Writers Award, 1984, for Fragments; Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing, Columbia University, 1985.
Convergence (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1982.
Fragments (novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.
Mass (novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 1985.
Our Fathers' Shadows (novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.
Legend's End (novel), Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1990.
News Values: Ideas for an Information Age, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1996.
The Best of Jackson Payne (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 2000.
Contributor of articles and short stories to periodicals, including Critic and Other Voices.
SIDELIGHTS: Jack Fuller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the Chicago Tribune, has written several successful novels, each with an added dimension of philosophical and moral concern. As Fuller suggested in the Library Journal, a novel with "suspense and action and complex human relationships" can become a forum for commenting on "the times in which we live, the ideas that animate and threaten us all." In his books Fuller takes the typical characters of his chosen genre spies, soldiers, cops, journalists and places them in an atmosphere of uncertainty and emotional crisis that forces them to confront basic dilemmas of living. Admirers report that Fuller's books, like those of fellow adventure novelists John le Carré and Graham Greene, succeed as both entertainment and insightful works of literary merit.
During the 1960s Fuller studied journalism at Northwestern University, then law at Yale. But as the decade ended he was torn away from his studies when he joined the army at the height of the Vietnam War. Becoming a reporter for the Stars and Stripes, he covered the war from the front lines. After his tour of duty Fuller returned to Yale, where, haunted by his Vietnam experience, he began writing his first novel. The book, later published as Fragments, is built around the moral questions that emerge when innocent Vietnamese civilians are deliberately killed by a U.S. soldier.
Unable to publish Fragments when it was first completed, Fuller continued to refine the novel while acquiring raw material for other books through his career experiences in journalism and law. As a journeyman reporter, for example, he covered crime stories and encountered the high-pressure world of the police. In the mid-1970s he spent about two years as a special assistant to U.S. attorney general Edward Levi, helping draft a code of conduct for the intelligence operations of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. While engaged in this project, Fuller came to realize that the everyday duties of spies—uncovering secrets, confusing the enemy by spreading false information—required agents to live in an atmosphere of mistrust and betrayal where moral certainties could seem nonexistent. By the 1980s Fuller's interest in ethical questions helped to shape three further adventure novels, entitled Convergence, Mass, and Our Fathers' Shadows. Fuller's moral concerns also informed his writing for the Tribune: recalling America's atomic attack on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II, he penned an editorial that led to a Pulitzer Prize in 1985.
Convergence, Fuller's first novel to appear in print, is "about the danger of the American and Soviet spy bureaucracies converging to the point where they are virtually indistinguishable," wrote Ross Thomas in the Washington Post. The book centers on Richard Harper, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent whose life embodies a philosophical contradiction. Harper knows that his craft involves lies and betrayal, but he believes nonetheless that the world around him is basically trustworthy. His story is narrated by a much different man: a shadowy, all-knowing CIA spy-master who seems comfortable with the notion that nothing in life can be trusted. As the novel unfolds Harper turns an upright American soldier into the perfect liar, able to dupe the Soviets with false information while passing lie-detector tests. A few years later the soldier is caught spying for his Soviet contacts and promptly implicates Harper, who must struggle to prove himself innocent.
Harper's predicament, reviewers suggested, prompts a variety of questions about truth, falsehood, and human nature. Which of the characters is lying, and why? How can Harper hope to prevail against a man he trained to lie flawlessly? And, perhaps most intriguingly, what might the American spy-master who narrates the story have done to create Harper's dilemma? Could Harper have as much to fear from the CIA as from the Soviets? "What makes 'Convergence' so good," wrote Tribune Books contributor Arthur Maling, is Fuller's "ability to convey the ambiguity of relationships, his sense of the complexity of life in a world where facts are open to conflicting interpretations, and his depiction of the in-house duplicity that one assumes goes on in the CIA just as it does in any other large organization." The book, Maling concluded, "is the most plausible, and perhaps the best, spy novel ever written by an American."
Fragments was finally published in 1984, to widespread critical acclaim. The story is seen through the eyes of Bill Morgan, who enters the army as a newly minted, naive college graduate. Sent to fight in Vietnam, Morgan becomes obsessed with the fate of a comrade-in-arms, Jim Neumann. Neumann is a dynamic, warmhearted young man who gives valuable help to both Morgan and a group of Vietnamese villagers, then becomes irrational during combat and massacres his Vietnamese friends. "The fall of the idealistic, gung-ho Neumann symbolizes the doomed American effort in Vietnam," observed Marc Leepson in the Washington Post. "Neumann goes to Vietnam armed with a philosophy and the energy and determination to carry out his ideas [but] in the end all the good [he] did is erased by his final, violent act." After witnessing Neumann's actions, Morgan returns to civilian life with his sense of faith in "fragments"; his quest to understand what he has seen becomes the focus of the book. The narrative climaxes when Morgan seeks out his former comrade, now a civilian in the rural Midwest, and the two confront their memories of the war. "And if I wept at all," Morgan concludes, "it was not for the dead." Fragments is "an ambitious, tightly controlled novel," observed Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times. "Although Mr. Fuller never resorts to portentous symbolism … he has succeeded, with Neumann, in creating a figure of mythic dimensions."
Two of Fuller's subsequent novels, Mass and Our Fathers' Shadows, maintain his mixture of actionpacked narrative and moral concern. In Mass reporter Stan Majewski and federal agent Henry Moll investigate the murder of a former Soviet atom-bomb scientist who has become a peace activist in the United States; as the story unfolds Fuller explores the mindset that gave rise to atomic warfare. In Our Fathers' Shadows prosecuting attorney Frank Nolan refuses to accept the police explanation for a ten-year-old girl's violent death and conducts his own inquiry, meanwhile pondering the shocking contempt many Americans seem to hold for children. The leading characters in each novel are assertive but thoughtful men whose cares extend to the duties of family life. Majewski and Moll are painfully estranged from their morally confused, drug-abusing sons; Nolan is afraid to tell his wife Laura that any children he has are likely to die of a debilitating genetic disease. Reviewers found both books thought-provoking and engagingly written. Surveying Mass and the novels that preceded it, Bruce Cook declared in the Washington Post Book World: "Fuller has demonstrated his power to produce at an impressively high level of performance. If he keeps this up, his will be a considerable name in the years to come."
Fuller told CA: "Having spent forty-two years in the newspaper business, I retired at the end of 2004 to devote myself to my writing, which had until then been forced to occupy a small but life-sustaining corner of my days. I write because I am compelled to. It is not a sense of discipline that drives me. I would have to have superhuman discipline to stop.
"My fiction has always begun with a sense of deep discomfort about something too complicated for me to name. At their hearts the themes are invariably troubling to me (the ambiguity of intense experience, the threat of nuclear war, child abuse, the curse of racism, the paradox of obsession). As the story reveals itself to me, it becomes in effect the true name of the emotional discomfort that got me started.
"I find writing first drafts slow and very difficult. When writing fiction I do two drafts by hand in pencil on long, narrow-lined legal pads. Only then do I move the work to the computer. It is in the rewriting, especially after the book has finally revealed to me what it wanted to say, that I find the most joy.
"With News Values: Ideas for an Information Age, I moved into nonfiction book writing for the first time. Though as a journalist I had done nonfiction for most of my life, it had never occurred to me to try a book. Then the University of Chicago Press asked me to think about writing an introduction to journalism on the model of Edward Levi's Introduction to Legal Reasoning. This, of course, was preposterous. Levi was the smartest person I've ever known, and his book is an enduring masterpiece. But I agreed to sketch an outline of some modest themes that I might be able to pursue. On the basis of it the press commissioned me to do the book. Though it took many provocative positions that I thought might lead to my being struck down by the Gods of Journalism, News Values to my surprise has been generally well received within the profession."
News Values is a candid critique of the news business and its practitioners from an author who has practiced the business himself at nearly every level. The book addresses the author's concerns about journalistic integrity on several levels that seem no less relevant over time than they were when the book was first published in 1996. Fuller worries about the accuracy of reporting, first of all, about the overuse of anonymous sources that can ultimately diminish the believability of the reportage itself, about a trend toward an increasing proportion of "bad news" coverage and its attendant negative tone. According to his reviewers, Fuller expresses concern that the quest for corporate profits in the face of expanding competition and the proliferation of multiple delivery media in the information industry could threaten the integrity of the written word. Yet, as David Shaw observed in Nieman Reports, Fuller does not condemn the alternative media: he "advocates that newspapers combine what they do best—reporting and analyzing the news, in depth and with human feelings—with what the new technology will enable them to do better." Despite Fuller's uncompromising critique, however, Shaw describes the author's tone as "optimistic." A Publishers Weekly reviewer described News Values as "a stimulating and often hard-nosed look at the issues newspapers face today."
Fuller continued: "Though I had published a number of short stories that involved nothing of mystery or espionage, The Best of Jackson Payne represented my first complete break from the genres I had flirted with in my earlier novels. It took many years to complete, both because of the challenge of its structure and because I needed to learn jazz music from the inside well enough to represent the way a great musician thinks about what he is doing."
The Best of Jackson Payne is the story of a fictional jazz musician as revealed through the research of would-be biographer Charles Quinlan. To several critics, the novel is much more than that. It reverberates with the sound and spirit of the musical genre itself. To Antioch Review contributor Ed Peaco: "Fuller vividly renders Payne's sound so that, if Payne existed in fact, the history of jazz would be different and significantly richer." Payne is a mysterious character, a typical representative of the effervescent jazz age in many ways, but a cipher in others—a man whose equivocal death drives Quinlan's dogged quest to penetrate the shadows that obscure the truth about Payne's life. To the extent that Payne is obsessed by his musical genius, Quinlan is depicted as a man equally obsessed by his quest. A Publishers Weekly contributor called The Best of Jackson Payne an "unflinching and searing novel" of the jazz world. Booklist contributor Bill Ott called Fuller's accomplishment "a rich, complex, sometimes dissonant, but always beautiful jazz novel."
Fuller concluded: "My fiction writing continues to distance itself from genres, and I am doing research toward what might become another book about journalism."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Editor, September, 1996, William F. Woo, review of News Values: Ideas for an Information Age, p. 24.
American Journalism Review, April, 1996, Carl Sessions Stepp, review of News Values, p. 17.
American Libraries, February, 2001, Bill Ott, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 60.
Antioch Review, summer, 2001, Ed Peaco, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 632.
Best Sellers, March, 1984, review of Fragments, p. 437.
Booklist, October 1, 1982, review of Convergence, p. 189; January 1, 1984, review of Fragments, p. 666; October 15, 1985, review of Mass, p. 315; October 1, 1987, review of Our Fathers' Shadows, p. 220; April 1, 1996, Thomas Gaughan, review of News Values: Ideas for an Information Age, p. 1325; April 15, 2000, Bill Ott, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 1523; January 1, 2001, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 857; November 1, 2005, Bill Ott, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 88.
Chicago, June, 1984, Asa Barber, review of Fragments, p. 130; March, 1986, Marcia Froelke Coburn, review of Mass, p. 110; December, 1987, Peter L. Robertson, review of Our Fathers' Shadows, p. 124; July, 2000, Jonathan Eig, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 68.
Choice, January, 1987, review of Fragments, p. 733.
Christian Science Monitor, June 10, 1996, David Mutch, review of News Values, p. 14; August 1, 1996, review of New Values, p. 13.
Harper's, June, 1984, review of Fragments, p. 67.
Hudson Review, spring, 2001, Alan Davis, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 146.
Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, spring, 1997, Cleve Wilhoit, review of News Values, p. 215.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1982, review of Convergence, p. 748; November 15, 1983, review of Fragments, p. 1173; August 15, 1985, review of Mass, p. 806; September 15, 1987, review of Our Fathers' Shadows, p. 1338; February 15, 1996, review of News Values, p. 273; May 15, 2000, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 653.
Kliatt, spring, 1985, review of Fragments, p. 10.
Library Journal, September 15, 1982, review of Convergence, p. 1768; October 1, 1982; January, 1984, review of Fragments, p. 110; November 1, 1985, David Keymer, review of Mass, p. 110; May 15, 2000, David W. Henderson, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 123.
Library Media Connection, November, 1988, review of Fragments, p. 23.
Listener, June 9, 1983, review of Convergence, p. 24; April 12, 1984, review of Fragments, p. 27; January 9, 1986, review of Mass, p. 30.
Los Angeles Times, May 19, 1996, review of News Values, p. 10; June 25, 2000, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 3.
Media Studies Journal, spring-summer, 1998, Donald W. Shriver, Jr., review of News Values, p. 138.
New York Law Journal, May 10, 1996, Daniel J. Kornstein, review of News Values, p. 2.
New York Times, February 13, 1984, Michiko Kakutani, review of Fragments, p. 19.
New York Times Book Review, January 2, 1983, Newgate Callendar, review of Convergence, p. 26; February 12, 1984, David Myers, review of Fragments, p. 37; October 27, 1985, Julius Lester, review of Mass, p. 40; November 22, 1987, Newgate Callendar, review of Our Fathers' Shadows, p. 45; June 2, 1996, Martin F. Nolan, review of News Values, p. 15; November 26, 2000, Jeff Waggoner, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 31; January 27, 2002, Scott Veale, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 24.
Nieman Reports, summer, 1996, David Shaw, review of New Values, p. 84.
Observer (London, England), March 25, 1984, review of Fragments, p. 23; September 22, 1985, review of Mass, p. 27; June 7, 1987, review of Our Fathers' Shadows, p. 24; December 24, 1989, review of Legends' End, p. 41.
Playboy, October, 1985, review of Mass, p. 36.
Publishers Weekly, July 2, 1982, review of Convergence, p. 46; November 18, 1983, review of Fragments, p. 59; December 1, 1984, review of Fragments, p. 86; September 13, 1985, review of Mass, p. 124; September 18, 1987, Sybil Steinberg, review of Our Fathers' Shadows, p. 162; November 1, 1991, review of Legends' End, p. 76; January 29, 1996, review of News Values, p. 90; April 17, 2000, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 46.
Times Literary Supplement, April 6, 1984, review of Fragments, p. 368; July 24, 1998, Scott Bradfield, review of Fragments, p. 19.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), October 3, 1982, Arthur Maling, review of Convergence; January 8, 1984; October 27, 1985; October 11, 1987, review of Our Fathers' Shadows, p. 5; December 3, 2000, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 3.
Wall Street Journal, Western Edition, December 16, 1982, Jeffrey Burke, review of Convergence, p. 26; February 15, 1984, Daniel Kornstein, review of Fragments, p. 28; October 15, 1985, William McGurn, review of Mass, p. 30; April 1, 1996, Richard J. Tofel, review of News Values, p. A12; October 27, 2000, Steve Barnes, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. W12.
Washington Post, October 25, 1982, Ross Thomas, review of Convergence, p. C6; January 9, 1984, Marc Leepson, review of Fragments, p. B8.
Washington Post Book World, December 15, 1985, Bruce Cook, review of Mass, p. 5; October 18, 1988, review of Our Fathers' Shadows, p. 5; July 12, 2000, Bart Schneider, review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. C8.
World and I, October, 2000, William H. Wiggins, Jr., review of The Best of Jackson Payne, p. 233.