Your new novel, No Certain Rest, is set during the Civil War, which is a popular backdrop these days for fiction and nonfiction. Why do you think that is?
I think there’s a lingering interest in the war because a lot of what really happened has never been explained. It’s the only time in history that Americans took up arms against one another. We talk about the Bosnians and the Serbs and what’s going on in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, and yet we did this ourselves.
This is your fifteenth book. How do you find time to write, discharge your duties as a newsman, and maintain your sanity?
Writing is what helps me maintain my sanity. It’s an integral part of me. It’s not something I do sporadically—you know, “Okay, I’m now going to write a novel.” Writing is something I do every day of my life. My mind automatically thinks in novelistic terms. It’s like a low-grade fever: I always have a story in me.
Is it true that you first started writing when you were sixteen?
Yeah. It was 1951. We were living in Beaumont, and I would write short stories. There was a lot going on at the time, a lot to write about. There was a big oil refinery in town, and there was baseball, which was my big interest. This was when the Dodgers were playing in Brooklyn and the Beaumont paper ran one-column photos of the starting lineups—only they didn’t have all the pictures, because some of the Dodgers were black: Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella. I complained to my dad one day and he said, “Call ‘em up.” So I did. I got the sports editor on the phone and he started yelling at me: “What? Are you trying to make trouble?” All I wanted to know was why they wouldn’t run photos of black players. “We just don’t do that.” It was a