Two Talented Bastids – United States

“Two Talented Bastids” explores the long-hidden secret of how the eponymous gentlemen got their skills



My father—my famous father—died in 2023, at the age of ninety. Two years before he passed, he got an email from a freelance writer named Ruth Crawford asking him for an interview. I read it to him, as I did all his personal and business correspondence, because by then he’d given up his electronic devices—first his desktop computer, then his laptop, and finally his beloved phone. His eyesight stayed good right up to the end, but he said that looking at the iPhone’s screen gave him a headache. At the reception following the funeral, Doc Goodwin told me that Pop might have su ered a series of ministrokes leading up to the big one.

Around the time he gave up his phone—this would have been five or six years before he died—I took early retirement from my position as Castle County School Superintendent, and went to work for my dad full-time. There was plenty to do. He had a housekeeper, but those duties fell to me at night and on the weekends. I helped him dress in the morning and undress at night. I did most of the cooking, and cleaned up the occasional mess when Pop couldn’t make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

He had a handyman as well, but by then Jimmy Griggs was pushing eighty himself, and so I found myself doing the chores Jimmy didn’t get around to— everything from mulching Pop’s treasured flowerbeds to plunging out the drains when they got clogged. Assisted living was never discussed, although God knows Pop could have a orded it; a dozen mega-bestselling novels over forty years had left him very well off.

The last of his “engaging doorstoppers” (Donna Tartt, New York Times) was published when Pop was eighty-two. He did the obligatory round of interviews, sat for the obligatory photos, and then announced his retirement.To the press, he did so graciously, with his “trademark humor” (Ron Charles, Washington Post). To me he said, “Thank God the bullshit’s finished.” With the exception of the informal picket-fence interview he gave Ruth Crawford, he never spoke for the record again. He was asked many times and always refused; claimed he’d said all he had to say, including some things he probably should have kept to himself.

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Publication Date

May 21, 2024


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