PERSONAL: Children: Alexander Sam, Gwendolyn Sarah.
CAREER: Cook County Juvenile Court, Chicago, IL, probation officer; University of Arizona, Tucson, instructor in English and the humanities, early 1970s; former staff writer for Real Paper, Cambridge, MA, and Boston Phoenix, Boston, MA; San Jose Mercury News, San Jose, CA, began as a writer for West (magazine), became an investigative reporter and then regional editor.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize (with others), for coverage of 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Bottom Feeders: From Free Love to Hard Core: The Rise and Fall of Counter-Culture Heroes Jim and Artie Mitchell, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Jill Wolfson) Somebody Else's Children: The Courts, the Kids, and the Struggle to Save America's Troubled Families, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 1996.
Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Rolling Stone.
SIDELIGHTS: After journalist John Hubner collaborated with New York Times reporter Lindsey Gruban to write the article "Dial Om for Murder" for Rolling Stone, the authors expanded on the 1987 article for their book Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas, a study of the religious cult officially known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The movement began in a New York storefront in 1965, when A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, an immigrant from India, began his teachings about the power of the soul over the weakness of the body. He died in 1977, but the Hare Krishnas prospered. Unfortunately, according to the authors, they have since then been under the oversight of many unscrupulous leaders who used donations intended for orphanages and other charities to fund drug rings, caches of weapons, and their own lavish lifestyles. Each of the founder's close disciples went his own way, and some eventually ended up in prison for crimes as heinous as murder.
Rick Kleffel, in a review for Agony online, wrote that Hubner's next book, Bottom Feeders: From Free Love to Hard Core: The Rise and Fall of Counter-Culture Heroes Jim and Artie Mitchell, "reads like a ballet of American sleaze, a carefully orchestrated true story that could only happen in San Francisco." The brothers of the title began their pornography careers by showing stills and films of scantily clad women, and they progressed from there to their first well-known feature, Behind the Green Door, which made Marilyn Chambers a porn star. The brothers made and lost a fortune, and their partnership ended when Jim shot and killed Artie. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the book is not clear as to why Jim committed murder, but added that "Hubner re-creates this underworld with such fascinating thoroughness and scruple that it almost doesn't matter."
In Somebody Else's Children: The Courts, the Kids, and the Struggle to Save America's Troubled Families Hubner and coauthor Jill Wolfson document proceedings at the San Jose family court, where cases involving child-custody, welfare, and juvenile crime are heard. The authors note that the media fails to address problems in the system until a crisis erupts.
Hubner writes how the Texas Youth Commission is attempting to help juvenile offenders in her fourth book, Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth. Here he writes of Giddings State School, a boot camp where some of the most at-risk Texas youth are educated, counseled, involved in sports, and given the opportunity to come to terms with their crimes, as well as with poverty and their often-traumatic and tragic family situations. The program at Giddings has been quite successful, the author observes, with recidivism rates at about ten percent versus an average of more than fifty percent nationally for young males.
Hubner focuses on two young people in his book, a boy and girl named Ronnie and Elena, and writes about the group therapy in which they participate. Steve Weinberg wrote in the San Jose Mercury News Online that these kids "must share in gruesome detail how they were abused and neglected while growing up. Then Ronnie and Elena must share in gruesome detail how they injured other human beings…. As Ronnie and Elena begin to accept responsibility for their crimes, as they begin to develop empathy for others, it is difficult not to shed tears—sometimes of anger, sometimes of joy—while reading." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Last Chance in Texas "an unsentimental account of how criminal careers can be derailed early on."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2005, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Last Chance in Texas: The Redemption of Criminal Youth, p. 1973.
Entertainment Weekly, March 5, 1993, Mark Harris, review of Bottom Feeders: From Free Love to Hard Core: The Rise and Fall of Counter-Culture Heroes Jim and Artie Mitchell, p. 54.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2005, review of Last Chance in Texas, p. 719.
People, June 5, 1989, Lorenzo Carcaterra, review of Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, February 8, 1993, review of Bottom Feeders, p. 68; October 14, 1996, review of Somebody Else's Children: The Courts, the Kids, and the Struggle to Save America's Troubled Families, p. 68; July 11, 2005, review of Last Chance in Texas, p. 74.
Texas Monthly, September, 2005, Mike Shea, review of Last Chance in Texas, p. 116.
Time, November 7, 1988, R.Z. Sheppard, review of Monkey on a Stick, p. 124.
Agony Online, http://trashotron.com/agony/ (May 23, 2003), Rick Kleffel, review of Bottom Feeders.
Houston Chronicle Online, http://www.chron.com/ (September 2, 2005), Steve Weinberg, review of Last Chance in Texas.
Last Chance in Texas Web site, http://www.lastchanceintexas.com/ (November 15, 2005).