Minutaglio, Bill

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Minutaglio, Bill


Born in New York, NY; married Holly Williams (a dancer and choreographer); children: two. Education: Attended Columbia College, Columbia University Graduate School of International Affairs, and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.


Home—Austin, TX. Agent—David Hale Smith, DHS Literary, 10711 Preston Rd., Ste. 100, Dallas, TX 75230.


Writer. Domestic bureau chief for People magazine; former reporter for the Abilene Reporter-News, San Antonio Express-News, Houston Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News; has worked for United Nations and U.S. Department of Agriculture.


National Headliners Award; Texas Headliners Award; Texas Associated Press Managing Editor's Award; University of Missouri Journalism Award; awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, National Conference of Christians and Jews, and American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors.


(With Robert J. Donovan) The Assassins, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1962.

(With Nick Newton) Locker Room Mojo: True Tales of Superstition in Sports, Middlefork Press (Austin, TX), 1999.

First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Legacy, Times Books/Random House (New York, NY), 1999.

City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster that Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

The President's Counselor: The Rise to Power of Alberto Gonzales, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Coauthor of The Hidden City, Elmwood Press. Contributor to anthologies, including Merchants of Misery, edited by Michael Hudson, Common Courage Press; November 22, Andrews & McMeel; and The Day JFK Died, Taylor Publishing. Contributor to periodicals, including Details, Outside, Los Angeles Times, Talk, Sporting News, and the New York Times. Contributor to online resources, including Encarta and World Book Encyclopedia.com.


City on Fire has been optioned for film; First Son was adapted as an audiobook.


Bill Minutaglio is a journalist whose book First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Legacy is an unauthorized biography of President George W. Bush; it was written before Bush won the 2000 presidential election. "Why," he asked Amy Smith in the Austin Chronicle, "do people think I'm writing an authorized book on George Bush? I've had Rolling Stone and alternative weeklies from all over calling to ask me if it's true." Minutaglio worked with researcher Jordan Smith, who lives in New Haven, Connecticut, where Bush was born. He looked into the life of Bush's grandfather, Senator Preston Bush, and found out why the Bush family moved to Texas. He listened to all the rumors about Bush's past and, he told Smith: "I tried to explore them with varying degrees of cooperation from people…. I think what I ended up with overall, apart from the rumors, is an actual portrait of George Bush's life." Minutaglio provides an extensive family tree of Bush's impressive ancestors, who include President Franklin Pierce, a Connecticut senator, a steel executive, and a financier. He gives a detailed account of Bush's youth: his childhood in a wealthy, political, and famous family; his schooling at Andover and Yale; his experience in the Texas Air National Guard; and his foray into the oil business, before finally entering politics and successfully winning the race for Texas governor. He also examines the differences between Bush and his father, former president George H.W. Bush, and states that he believes the son is a better politician than his father because he is more skilled at working within the political system. At the same time, Minutaglio notes, his resemblance to his father may be his biggest weakness—like the senior Bush, George W. lacks vision and a solid political ideology, according to the author.

Minutaglio interviewed members of the Bush family, and consulted archival sources in writing the book. He ran into occasional difficulties in his research, noting that as his project received more publicity and Bush's campaign workers became aware that he was writing it, some of his sources would disappear. People who had been helpful suddenly became unhelpful and documents that were part of the public record would suddenly become unavailable. "Things like that made the process all the more laborious," he told Smith.

A reviewer in Business Week wrote that the book has a few shortcomings, notably that Minutaglio's grasp of national politics is not as extensive or in-depth as his knowledge of Texas politics, but that these small flaws are easily overlooked. The reviewer stated: "Minutaglio is a skilled researcher, a superb interviewer, and a solid writer…. He was able to get the notoriously unreflective Bush clan to open up in a series of revealing conversations." The reviewer also described the book as "a fascinating personality portrait of an ambitious, ornery, and intensely competitive man," adding: "First Son is likely to become a must read for Bush-watchers." A Publishers Weekly reviewer stated: "Minutaglio's reporting is at its sharpest when describing the delicate maneuverings to campaigning."

Minutaglio later wrote The President's Counselor: The Rise to Power of Alberto Gonzales, a biography of the first Hispanic U.S. Attorney General and a trusted advisor to George W. Bush. Minutaglio chronicles Gonzales's rise from impoverished beginnings to become an effective corporate lawyer, the general counsel to then Governor Bush, and a member of the Texas Supreme Court before serving in the White House. Though Library Journal contributor Jill Ortner believed that "Minutaglio presents a balanced look at Gonzales's controversial advice to Bush regarding interpretation of Geneva Convention regulations" on the torture of suspected terrorists, New York Times Book Review critic Jacob Heilbrunn remarked that the author "shows that Gonzales has taken an elastic view of the law ever since he began working for" Bush. Heilbrunn added that Minutaglio "has carefully amassed a wealth of information that suggests Gonzales is less a conservative ideologue than a diligent subordinate whose only principle is abject fealty to Bush." According to Booklist critic Vanessa Bush, the author "plumbs the personality of a man whose loyalty to the president may have compromised his professional principles."

In City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster that Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle, Minutaglio examines the horrific tragedy that struck the Gulf coast town of Texas City, Texas, in 1947, killing six hundred people and injuring thousands more. On April 16, crowds gathered to watch the colorful flames coming from a fire on board a French freighter. Suddenly 51,000 bags of ammonium nitrate exploded, leveling the town, creating a tidal wave, and causing nearby oil and petrochemical tanks to erupt. When it was learned that officials had failed to warn the city about the chemical's explosive potential, survivors successful sued the U.S. government for negligence. City on Fire garnered strong reviews. Minutaglio "has written a compelling narrative about the human side of the drama," asserted Mark Obbie in American Lawyer, adding: "The drama of the events immediately preceding and following the explosion is cinematic and powerful." Margaret Flanagan, writing in Booklist, called the work a "riveting account of catastrophe and heroism," and a critic in Kirkus Reviews described City on Fire as "an ugly but necessary meditation on our checkered military-industrial history."



American Lawyer, April, 2003, Mark Obbie, review of City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster that Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle, p. 67.

Austin Chronicle, June 1, 1999, Amy Smith, "Bush: The Book"; November 5, 1999, Jessica Berthold, "Bill Minutaglio."

Booklist, September 15, 1999, Gilbert Taylor, review of First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty, p. 196; December 15, 2002, Margaret Flanagan, review of City on Fire, p. 729; July 1, 2006, Vanessa Bush, review of The President's Counselor: The Rise to Power of Alberto Gonzales, p. 25.

Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), October 31, 1999, Mike Vogel, review of First Son, p. F6.

Business Week, November 15, 1999, review of First Son, p. 24.

Columbia Journalism Review, January, 2001, Brent Cunningham, "Missing the DUI Story," p. 31.

Hispanic, September, 2006, Victor Cruz-Lugo, review of The President's Counselor, p. 74.

Houston Chronicle, October 24, 1999, Wendy Benjaminson, review of First Son, p. 14.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of City on Fire, p. 1679; May 15, 2006, review of The President's Counselor, p. 508.

Library Journal, October 1, 1999, Michael A. Genovese, review of First Son, p. 114; December, 2002, Deirdre Bray Root, review of City on Fire, p. 150; June 15, 2006, Jill Ortner, review of The President's Counselor, p. 88.

New York Times, July 11, 2006, Michiko Kakutani, "President Architect of Designs for Power," review of The President's Counselor.

New York Times Book Review, October 17, 1999, David Brooks, review of First Son, p. 4; August 27, 2006, Jacob Heilbrunn, "Enforcer in Chief," review of The President's Counselor.

Publishers Weekly, August 9, 1999, "Like Father, Like Son," p. 250; September 13, 1999, review of First Son, p. 69; October 4, 1999, review of First Son, p. 36; May 22, 2006, review of The President's Counselor, p. 45; November 11, 2006, review of City on Fire, p. 49.

Texas Monthly, July, 1999, Anne Dingus, review of Locker Room Mojo: True Tales of Superstitions in Sports, p. 32; July, 2006, Mark Shea, review of The President's Counselor, p. 58.

Washington Monthly, December, 1999, David S. Broder, review of First Son.


Bill Minutaglio Home Page,http://www.billminutaglio.com (May 1, 2007).

WNYC Web site,http://www.wnyc.org/ (January 13, 2001), "George W. Bush and the Press," interview with Bill Minutaglio.