Weiss, Mike 1942–

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Weiss, Mike 1942–

(Michael Weiss)

PERSONAL:

Born October 18, 1942, in Washington, DC; son of Harry (an accountant) and Rhoda (a bursar) Weiss; married Carole Rafferty (a writer), June 7, 1985; children: Joshua, Bessie, Nicholas, Casey. Education: Knox College, B.A., 1964; Johns Hopkins University, M.F.A., 1965.

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—West Sussex, England. Agent—International Creative Management, 40 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer and journalist. San Francisco Chronicle, reporter. Worked variously as a community organizer, teacher, university lecturer, janitor, cab driver, butcher, encyclopedia salesman, and waterfront laborer.

MEMBER:

Author's Guild.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Pulitzer Prize nomination for coverage of Baltimore riots, 1968; Edgar Allan Poe Award for best fact crime book, Mystery Writers of America, 1984, for Double Play: The San Francisco City Hall Killings.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

(Under name Michael Weiss) Living Together: A Year in the Life of a City Commune, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1974.

Double Play: The San Francisco City Hall Killings, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1984.

A Very Good Year: The Journey of a California Wine from Vine to Table, Gotham Books (New York, NY), 2005.

"BEN HENRY" SERIES; MYSTERY NOVELS

No Go on Jackson Street: A Mystery Introducing Ben Henry, Scribner (New York, NY), 1987.

All Points Bulletin, Avon (New York, NY), 1989.

A Dry and Thirsty Ground, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.

SIDELIGHTS:

Author and journalist Mike Weiss has had a long and varied career as a writer, but much of his work, whether fact or fiction, has focused on modern urban life in America. His first full-length work, published under the name Michael Weiss, was Living Together: A Year in the Life of a City Commune. This 1974 nonfiction book chronicles the first year of an experimental residential living arrangement. His next volume, Double Play: The San Francisco City Hall Killings, was published in 1984 and won the author an Edgar Allan Poe nonfiction award from the Mystery Writers of America. In it, Weiss chronicles the 1978 shootings of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and city supervisor/gay-rights advocate Harvey Milk. Former supervisor Dan White was convicted of the murders and served five years in prison. Weiss used trial transcripts to compile sections of Double Play, and the book details the so-called "Twinkie defense" employed by the defendant. White's lawyer claimed that the San Francisco politician was driven to kill by uncontrollable mood swings brought on by junk food, and as a result, White was convicted of manslaughter—not murder—and served just five years in prison. Herbert Gold, reviewing Double Play for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, deemed Weiss's descriptions of the trial "engrossing."

Weiss next turned to fiction, writing detective stories that were set in the San Francisco metropolitan area. His first novel, titled No Go on Jackson Street: A Mystery Introducing Ben Henry, revolves around the sleuthing exploits of taxi driver Ben Henry. Weiss weaves elements of urban San Francisco culture into this 1987 whodunit. The plot incorporates murder charges leveled against a dubious acquaintance of Henry's, a gang of mobsters, and a venomous family publishing empire.

All Points Bulletin, Weiss's second Ben Henry novel, appeared in 1989. The author again uses San Francisco as a backdrop for a murder mystery, as cab driver Henry further hones his detective skills on solving the mysterious slayings of three of his colleagues. Weiss continued the series with 1992's A Dry and Thirsty Ground. In this work, Weiss moves the now-certified private investigator out of San Francisco and into a rural Northern California setting. Again Henry is occupied in solving a case involving a friend, but this time elements of ecological concern further complicate the plot.

As a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Weiss wrote the newspaper series that became his next nonfiction work, A Very Good Year: The Journey of a California Wine from Vine to Table. Based on the thirtynine day series that appeared in 2004, the book describes in detail the creation of a bottle of 2002 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc wine. Weiss profiles entrepreneurs and vintners Don and Rhonda Carano, who built the Ferrari-Carano Winery with wealth derived from Nevada gaming concerns. He looks at the work and personalities of the laborers and professionals involved in the creation of the wine, from grape farmer Steve Domenchelli to reserved winemaker George Bursick to the eager, ambitious vineyard workers in El Charco, in Mexico. Weiss also passes along a number of secrets gleaned from a pseudonymous contact called "Deep Cork." Weiss covers the entire winemaking process, from the cultivation and harvest of grapes to the skilled techniques of fermenting and blending wine to the marketing savvy necessary for a successful rollout of a new brand or vintage. Booklist reviewer Mark Knoblauch called Weiss's book an "exceptionally readable account of the state of California's wine industry at the start of the new millennium." Weiss "weaves a drama of failures and fears, tragedies and triumphs, births and deaths, ego and jealousy," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor, who concluded that the story is a "sweet pleasure."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 2005, Mark Knoblauch, review of A Very Good Year: The Journey of a California Wine from Vine to Table, p. 1885.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 29, 1984, Herbert Gold, review of Double Play: The San Francisco City Hall Killings, p. 3.

Publishers Weekly, April 25, 2005, review of A Very Good Year, p. 48.

ONLINE

Elevage Web log,http://elevage.blogspot.com/ (July 8, 2005), Vincent Fritzsche, review of A Very Good Year.

Winewaves Web log,http://volunteer.blogs.com/ winewaves/ (July 18, 2005), review of A Very Good Year.