Sherwood, Ben 1964–
Sherwood, Ben 1964–
PERSONAL: Born February 12, 1964, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Richard and Dorothy Sherwood; married Karen Kehela (a film producer), March, 2003; children: Will. Education: Harvard University, graduated, 1986; Oxford University, master's degree, 1989.
CAREER: News and Observer, Raleigh, NC, reporter, c. 1983; Los Angeles Times, Paris correspondent, c. 1980s; Prime Time Live, ABC News, New York, NY, investigative producer, 1989–1993; worked on a campaign for a California gubernatorial candidate, c. 1990s; NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, New York, NY, senior producer, 1997–2002; freelance writer, 2002–04; Good Morning America, ABC News, New York, NY, executive producer, 2004–.
AWARDS, HONORS: Emmy Awards, for news coverage of war in Kosovo and floods in Mozambique; Edward R. Murrow Award, for best newscast.
(Under pseudonym Max Barclay) Red Mercury, Dove Books (West Hollywood, CA), 1996.
The Man Who Ate the 747, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2000.
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.
ADAPTATIONS: Film rights to The Man Who Ate the 747 were optioned to Bel Air Entertainment; film rights to The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud were optioned to Universal Pictures.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Lucy the Unforgettable, a novel.
SIDELIGHTS: As an award-winning journalist, Ben Sherwood has covered important events ranging from wars to floods for Prime Time Live and the NBC evening news. His first novel, Red Mercury, concerns the equally dramatic possibilities of a terrorist attack on the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia. The idea came "scarily close to Atlanta's reality," according to Bettijane Levine in the Los Angeles Times. In Sherwood's novel, penned under the pseudonym Max Barclay, Nuclear Emergency Search Team head Mack McFall and FBI special agent Kyle Preston race against the clock to track down a cache of stolen plutonium and prevent a nuclear nightmare. With the help of agents from over fifty government agencies, the pair uncover numerous plots and threats from Middle Eastern terrorists, right-wing militia members, and other suspects while searching for the stolen red mercury, a substance that would make it possible to decrease the size of a nuclear bomb so that it could be easily placed in a suitcase.
Sherwood's extensive research for his novel included numerous interviews with those officials responsible for security at the Atlanta Olympics. As he told Levine: "They don't usually talk to journalists. But they've spent years planning for these seventeen days," and they were willing to talk off the record to a novelist, even to the point of divulging some top secret security measures. The background information gained from these interviews turned a thriller written "just for fun" into a story that received rave reviews from critics. When a pipe bomb actually exploded at the Olympics, Sherwood found himself sought out as a terrorism expert by his colleagues in television newsrooms. Even then-President Bill Clinton "devoured" Red Mercury before traveling to Atlanta shortly after the bombing.
In his next novel, The Man Who Ate the 747, Sherwood switches gears to write about J.J. Smith, the official record keeper for The Book of Records. Smith believes he has seen it all: the world's longest apple peel, the longest continuous kiss, the farthest flight of a champagne cork. However, to see just how far a man will go to prove his love for a woman Smith must visit Superior, Nebraska, where farmer Wally Chubb is eating a 747, piece by ground-up piece, to prove his love for local newspaper editor Willa Wyatt. At Smith's urging, Chubb reluctantly goes public with his campaign, and the ensuing media circus provides the background for what a Kirkus Review critic called a "wonderfully wacky, wise, charming, and romantic satire." As Smith finds himself also falling for Willa, the stage is set for an old-fashioned conflict between friendship and true love. The same intense research that made Sherwood something of a terrorism expert after his first book also went into his second. He made so many trips to Superior, Nebraska, that he was made an honorary citizen of the town in September 2000.
Sherwood's third novel, The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, opens when the title character is fifteen years old. Charlie "borrows" a neighbor's car one night, while his mother is working late, to drive himself and his younger brother, Sam, from their home in Marblehead, Massachusetts, to Boston to see a Red Sox game. Charlie crashes the car, killing Sam, but the appearance of Sam's ghost allows Charlie to keep his promise always to be there for his little brother. Every night at sunset, Charlie and Sam's ghost meet and play catch in the cemetery. Charlie keeps this up for thirteen years, even becoming the cemetery's caretaker to make the meetings easier to arrange. "This could be unbearably sappy, but it's not," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor; "Sherwood grounds these curious trysts in small-town realities." Then Charlie meets Tess Carroll, a local sailor, while she is visiting her father's grave. He quickly falls in love with her, even though he is conflicted about moving on from Sam's death by devoting himself to someone else. "Uniquely lyrical, Sherwood's story of a devotion so strong it transcends death is mystical, magical, and moving," Shelley Mosley concluded in Booklist.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2000, George Needham, review of The Man Who Ate the 747, p. 2076; April 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Man Who Ate the 747, p. 1461; January 1, 2004, Shelley Mosley, review of The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, p. 790.
Bookseller, July 29, 2005, Aislinn McCormick, "Made for the Silver Screen: The Borders Brent Cross Group Was Underwhelmed but Entertained by The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud," p. 28.
Hollywood Reporter, April 20, 2004, Cynthia Littleton, "GMA Books Sherwood as Showrunner," p. 4.
Kirkus Review, July 1, 2000, review of The Man Who Ate the 747, p. 915; December 15, 2003, review of The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, p. 1420.
Los Angeles Times, July 29, 1996, Bettijane Levine, "His Fiction Comes Scarily Close to Atlanta's Reality," p. E3.
M2 Best Books, May 8, 2003, "Former Journalist Sells Rights to Second Novel to Universal Pictures."
People, September 11, 2000, Dan Jewel, review of The Man Who Ate the 747, p. 59.
Publishers Weekly, February 16, 2004, review of The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, p. 152.
Ben Sherwood Web site, http://www.bensherwood.com (October 11, 2005).