Reed, Philip 1952-

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Reed, Philip 1952-
(Philip Chandler Reed)


Born March 17, 1952, in Minneapolis, MN; son of Thomas B. (an inventor) and Vivian (a teacher) Reed; married Vivian Blackwell Swingle, August 11, 1979; children: Andrew Wesley, Anthony Wilson. Education: Attended Dean Junior College, Franklin, MA, 1970-73; University of North Carolina, B.A., 1975. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Presbyterian. Hobbies and other interests: Beer making, carpentry, tennis, golf, free throw shooting, mountain climbing.


Home—Long Beach, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Carroll & Graf Publishers, 245 W. 17th St., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10011-5300. E-mail—[email protected]


City News Bureau of Chicago, Chicago, IL, reporter, 1976-78; Sentinel Newspapers, Denver, CO, reporter, 1978; Rocky Mountain News, Denver, reporter, 1978-82; Hollywood Drama-Logue, Hollywood, CA, critic and columnist, 1982-90.


Writers Guild of America, Mystery Writers of America.


Edgar Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, and Anthony Award nominations, 1997, both for Bird Dog.


True Blues (play), produced in Hollywood, CA, 1984.

Nightside (play), produced in Los Angeles, CA, 1987, also produced in Chicago, IL, at Victory Gardens Theater.

Candidly, Allen Funt: A Million Smiles Later (biography), Barricade Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Free Throw (nonfiction), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.

Bird Dog (novel), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Low Rider (novel; sequel to Bird Dog) Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Marquis de Fraud, Epic Press (Long Beach, CA), 2001.

In Search of the Greatest Golf Swing: Chasing the Legend of Mike Austin, the Man Who Launched the World's Longest Drive and Taught Me to Hit like a Pro, Carroll & Graf Publishers (New York, NY), 2004.

Also author of the plays Boondoggle and Vacancy in Paradise; author of screenplays Green Light and Flying Blind; ghost writer of the books Used Cars—How to Buy One and Lease Cars—How to Get One; has written for television series, including Miami Vice, Beauty and the Beast, and Probe. Contributor of reviews to periodicals, including USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, and Long Beach Press Telegram.


Philip Reed is a long-time journalist, critic, and columnist. He is also a playwright whose stage dramas have been produced in Chicago and Hollywood. A sports enthusiast, Reed has combined this interest with writing in two of his books. Free Throw chronicles his quest to learn how to shoot the perfect basketball free throw, as taught by Dr. Tom Amberry, the world's record-holding free throw shooter. In In Search of the Greatest Golf Swing: Chasing the Legend of Mike Austin, the Man Who Launched the World's Longest Drive and Taught Me to Hit Like a Pro Reed explores his tutelage by another sports guru, Mike Austin, the holder of the record for the longest golf drive in professional competition (515 yards, set in 1974). The nonagenarian Austin proved to be a bombastic character, "a man of self-aggrandizing habits" whose stories about his exploits and accomplishments seemed more akin to tall tales than autobiography, remarked Booklist reviewer Gilbert Taylor. However, Reed found that much of what Austin told him was actually true, and the fairway veteran agreed to teach Reed, subjecting him to a strict, almost military-level training regimen. A Wisconsin Bookwatch reviewer called the book "‘must’ reading for anyone dedicated … to the game of golf," while Taylor described it as an "intriguing mix of instructional, memoir, and biography."

Reed's debut novel, Bird Dog, tells the story of Harold Dodge, a chemical engineer who used to work as a "bird dog" for a car dealership, luring easily persuaded customers in to be swayed by high-pressure sales tactics. When beautiful Marianna Perado asks Harold for help in reversing a trade-in she regrets, he agrees to assist her in recovering her Ford Escort back from shady dealer Joe Corvo. As the case progresses, Harold finds himself falling for Marianna even as she takes matters into her own hands and brazenly steals back her car. However, she not only ends up with the car, but with the address book of Corvo's associate, Vito Fiorre, and evidence connecting Fiorre with criminal activity and many illegal deals with a dangerous character who will be arriving in town soon. "Reed spins out this tale as if he's been writing larks like this for years," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor, turning in work that "would make an old hand proud." Joanne Wilkinson, writing in Booklist, called the novel a "sometimes gritty, slightly loopy novel," a story that "expertly plays on our nation's love affair with cars and greed."

In the sequel, Low Rider, Marianna is recovering from gunshot wounds in Chile, and Harold is desperately in search of the funds to pay for an operation that will enable her to walk again. Hoping to trade information for cash, Harold contacts Vikki Corvo, widow of Joe Corvo, and tells her he knows where Joe's body can be found. With a corpse, Vikki can collect insurance money and recover a lost portion of Corvo's car dealership; however, Joe also realizes that what he tells Vikki could also implicate him in Joe Corvo's death. Complicating matters are a low-down insurance agent who cannot afford to pay the Corvo life insurance claim and a pair of criminals involved in a chop-shop scheme. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote: "Reed makes the ins and outs of the car business and insurance scams into a high horse-powered tale loaded with dark-humor extras."

Philip Reed once told CA: "When I was growing up we moved from Buffalo, New York, to Danville, Indiana, and finally to Concord, Massachusetts, a town steeped in literary history and the home of Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott. These writers influenced me somewhat. A greater influence was the fact that my grandfather had written short stories for pulp magazines in the 1920s. He later became a news reporter and ad man in Chicago.

"At an early age I became interested in writing short stories and novels. Some of the first authors I remember reading were Mark Twain and Jack London. When I was thirteen or fourteen, we spent a year in Oxford, England, and while I was there, I read many of the great American writers: Steinbeck, Salinger, and Hemingway. While in England I built a raft and sailed it down the Thames hoping to reach London (the current turned out to be extremely sluggish and we barely made twenty-five miles in a week). I wrote a memoir of this trip. And in the same year I wrote a short story in the style of O. Henry with a ‘surprise’ ending.

"Through high school I continued to write short stories that were not very good and novels that I never finished. I continued this into junior college, took a year off and traveled in Europe, then returned to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I went to U.N.C. because the soccer coach helped me bypass admissions, and because it was the alma mater of my favorite writer at that time—Thomas Wolf.

"In 1975, when I was ready to graduate, I found I was still three credits short. I enrolled in a correspondence course for playwriting. To complete the class I wrote two one-act plays (one of those plays was produced in Hollywood eight years later).

"After college I spent a year working in a hotel in Boston and writing in my spare time. I had several newspaper articles published, but I had no luck with fiction. Finally, I concluded I didn't have anything to write about and began looking for a job as a reporter. A friend was moving to San Francisco and gave me a ride as far as Chicago, which I had heard was ‘a good newspaper town.’ Ten days later I began working for the City News Bureau of Chicago, a wire service for the three city dailies and radio and TV stations.

"For two years I was a police reporter. I covered murders, robberies, assaults, explosions, accidents, and many, many fires. This gave me a first-hand look at crime and the aftermath of crime and a working knowledge of police investigations. While riding the train to work and back I began writing a mystery, which was never finished.

"In 1978 I moved to Denver, Colorado, and began working for the Sentinel Newspapers, a string of suburban weeklies. Nine months later I landed a job as night reporter for the Rocky Mountain News. I drove a car equipped with a police scanner and a two-way radio to communicate with the city desk. In this position, I continued my education of crime and police work, but in a more in-depth fashion than in Chicago. A year later I was given a new assignment and covered many murder trials in Denver area courts. This gave me a look at how crimes are handled once they get into the judicial system.

"While working the night police beat, I wrote a mystery, Dead Beat. I also wrote several plays which I began mailing to contests and production companies.

"I was married in 1979 to Vivian Swingle who, although trained as a librarian, was interested in screenwriting. She wrote several screenplays which she mailed to Hollywood agents. Several agents wrote back, interested in her material. In 1982 we decided to move to California so Vivian could pursue screenwriting while I tried to get my plays produced. Once in Los Angeles, however, we were overwhelmed by the competition in the writing game and began to reassess our decision. Vivian got a job as a librarian in Long Beach, and I began writing theater reviews for USA Today, Hollywood Drama-Logue, and the Long Beach Press Telegram.

"In 1984 the owner of a small Hollywood theater offered to let me use his space to produce my play True Blues which was based on an incident I witnessed as a police reporter in Chicago. However, he required me to direct the show myself, and double-cast the play. True Blues was given a lukewarm review by the Los Angeles Times. But later, a police reporter from the Times saw the play and praised it as a realistic assessment of the relationship between blacks and the L.A.P.D. Some producers from Hill Street Blues saw my play and recommended me to the staff of the then-unseen Miami Vice. I was hired to write an episode of that series.

"For the next few years I wrote and produced my plays in Los Angeles. I also wrote several other episodes for TV shows: Beauty and the Beast and Probe. In 1987 my full length play Nightside was produced in West L.A. It was based on the colorful old-school police reporters I had met working the midnight shift in the central police headquarters pressroom. A two-character play, it was later produced in Long Beach, California, and then at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.

"In most of my playwriting I seemed to be exploring the importance of work in our lives. Also, two plays looked at racial relations: True Blues is about police brutality while Nightside is more understated, showing the changing of the guard as more blacks entered the workplace and were given promotions over many whites.

"In 1985 my son Andrew was born and this increased the need to make money and gain some measure of security. I began working for a production company in Beverly Hills writing scripts for training videos. I also wrote scripts for videos that would be used to educate juries in trial.

"In 1990 I optioned the rights to a screenplay, Flying Blind, to a young producer named Barin Kumar. After several failed attempts to rewrite my movie, we began rewriting the script together. Tragically, Barin died of a heart attack at the age of thirty-six and the movie was never made. However, he caused a breakthrough in my writing. With his help, I learned to write a story from multiple points of view.

"In 1990 my second son, Anthony, was born and the need for money increased. This also came at a time when Los Angeles was entering a deep recession. I was hired to ghost-write a how-to book about car buying, Used Cars—How to Buy One, which was self-published and nationally distributed. The following year I wrote another such book, Lease Cars—How to Get One. Both of these experiences showed me I was capable of writing a full-length manuscript.

"In 1992 I tried screenwriting again, co-writing a script called Green Light with a friend who worked for the Los Angeles Times. However, in May, the Los Angeles riots broke out. I knew my friend would be tied up covering the riots so I began work on a novel I had been thinking about for some time. For a long time I had been intrigued with the idea of writing a novel that borrowed heavily from the screenplay and stage play format. My idea was to write in such a way as to view the story from the outside, like a camera, with only occasional eavesdropping on the character's thoughts. I also wanted to write scenes that would be told entirely in dialogue. The novel that I began that morning became Bird Dog. However, after writing forty-two pages I could not decide what would happen next. I put it down and didn't pick it up again for two years.

"In 1993 I was offered the chance to write Allen Funt's autobiography. That was another chance to prove to myself I could create book-length work. Funt had attempted to write his memoirs several times, with other writers, but the efforts failed. I wrote four chapters of Candidly, Allen Funt: A Million Smiles Later and secured a contract from Barricade Books. The book was published in 1994.

"During this time, I began to develop a process for writing that I still use today. I get up early, about five a.m., and write quickly by hand, for about an hour. Then, after breakfast, I type this material into the computer, revising it as I go. This gives me two passes at a first draft. Sometimes I reject this handwritten material completely. Sometimes it goes in with little editing. But it helps me break the ice, and gets me past the blank page.

"After the publication of the Funt autobiography, I became more determined to finish my novel. One morning, while in the shower, another large section of the story unfolded to me. I began writing again and made it up to page 170. Finally, I decided to finish the book, whether I liked the ending or not. Once I did this I saw my way to the right ending and finished the book a few months later.

"After finishing Bird Dog, I learned that the world's champion free throw shooter, Dr. Tom Amberry, who made 2,750 free throws in a row, lived in Long Beach. I met him and asked him to teach me how he shot free throws. After a year of writing and shooting baskets, I sold Free Throw to HarperCollins Publishers. In almost the same month, my agent sold Bird Dog to Pocket Books and got me a two-book contract for the sequel."



Booklist, April 15, 1997, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Bird Dog, p. 1411; June 1, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of In Search of the Greatest Golf Swing: Chasing the Legend of Mike Austin, the Man Who Launched the World's Longest Drive and Taught Me to Hit like a Pro, p. 1686.

Publishers Weekly, April 28, 1997, review of Bird Dog, p. 49; May 18, 1998, review of Low Rider, p. 74.

Wisconsin Bookwatch, October, 2004, review of In Search of the Greatest Golf Swing.


Philip Reed Home Page, (June 4, 2006).