J. R. Moehringer is not like most reporters at the Los Angeles Times. He wrote his way to a Pulitzer for feature writing in 2000, when he was the Atlanta bureau chief, and spent a year at Harvard as a Neiman fellow. Most recently he has been living in Denver and having occasional chats with the national desk. (Three stories published in the Times last year, none yet this year.) At age 40 he has a memoir coming soon from Hyperion and, to hear Sunday's puff piece in the Rocky Mountain News tell it, the book and Moehringer are sure to be big hits. He wowed New York when he pitched the book, and Hyperion has sent him on a pre-publication publicity tour.
He sits in the coffee shop of a local Barnes & Noble dressed as he always has, like someone straight out of GQ: crisp navy suit, cornflower blue checked shirt, pastel striped tie. A national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, based in Denver, he's the sort of promotable author publishers dream of: polished, intelligent, articulate...
At a Time/Warner sales conference at which Moehringer spoke about his book (Hyperion shares a sales force with Time/Warner, owner of Little, Brown and other imprints), even editors from Little, Brown - who have books from their own authors to read and worry about - were scrambling for copies. "That probably doesn't mean much to your readers," says van Arsdale, "but to me, that's awe-inspiring. It just doesn't happen."
The book turns on Moehringer's early experiences hanging around a bar where his uncle worked on Long Island: "I learned what it means to be a man in a Cadillac going 90 miles an hour on the Long Island Expressway with Bobo and Goose and Joey D and Wilbur." Meanwhile, the Denver bureau can spare him.