Presenter of the National Book Awards

The Book That Changed My Life

Ted Morgan

Ted Morgan, born Sanche de Gramont, was named a 1982 National Book Award Finalist for his Biography Maugham. He is also the author of biographies of Winston Churchill, William S. Burroughs, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The book that changed my life was Vincent Sheean's Personal History. I was a senior at Yale when I read it in 1954, about to embark on graduate studies in political science. In the account of his reporting in the thirties, Sheean brought to every line a captivating immediacy. He had gone to the Rif mountains to interview the rebel leader Abdel Krim. He had been made physically ill by the atrocities he saw in Barcelona in 1937, and was unable to file for three days. I had not fully realized that a man would risk his life to gather information. I decided that I wanted to be, like Sheean, a witness to important events. Seven years later, in 1961, I was covering the war in Algeria and the Katanga rebellion for the Herald Tribune. Later I learned that when Sheean wrote his remarkable account of the assassination of Gandhi in 1948 - he happened to be with Gandhi at the time - he was working for the Herald Tribune. He cabled the story Commonwealth rate from New Delhi to the London bureau, but it was so long that the bureau chief sent it by mail to New York, so that his scoop came in after the second-day stories. It ran to ten thousand words.

All best wishes,

Ted Morgan