Joe McGinniss

Joe McGinniss

Born: December 9, 1942


Joe McGinniss is an American author who was born in New York City on 9 December 19421. He is an author of true crime and non-fiction novels. He is also a big soccer fan and his sympathy to soccer even took him to Italy to follow a second division club and spend a year there to write a book about their adventures in top leagues of Italian soccer. Currently he lives in Williamstown, MA with his wife, who is also a writer and editor, Nancy Doherty and his five children.

Joe McGinniss gained familiarity with journalism for the first time at the College of Holy Cross. During his education he wrote for the school newspaper and he worked for the Port Chester Daily Item in summer breaks4. He graduated from the College of Holy Cross in 1964 and started working for Worcester Telegram as a general assignment reporter. During his time at Worcester Telegram Joe McGinniss discovered that he had a talent for writing and decided to study in this field.

After spending a year at Worcester Telegram, McGinniss became a sportswriter at the Philadelphia Bulletin in 1965. Only a year after, he started working at the rival of the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Philadelphia Inquirer, as a columnist.

1968 was a remarkable year in Joe McGinniss’s life. He found the opportunity to write his first novel, The Selling of the President, in this year. While working on a profile of sports journalist, Howard William Cosell6 for TV Guide, he learnt that a friend of Howard Cosell had the advertising account of Democratic Party president nominee, Hubert Humphrey7. Hubert Humphrey refused Joe McGinniss’s offer to work with him. Following this refusal, Joe McGinniss decided to follow the presidential campaign of Republican nominee, Richard Nixon 8, who later on won the elections to become the president of the United States. Richard Nixon’s campaign advisor, Roger Alies, who also worked for George Bush’s campaign, allowed Joe McGinniss to follow the selling of a president to the public. Following the presidential campaign, Joe McGinniss published his first book, The Selling of the President, which received a huge amount of positive feedback, such that it was in New York Times bestseller list overnight.

Following his huge success with The Selling of the President, Joe McGinniss decided to concentrate on writing books. Therefore he quitted his job at the Philadelphia Inquirer1. He continued writing and his next book was The Dream Team which was published in 1972. In this book, Joe McGinniss narrated the story of a distracted young writer who was obsessed with horse racing, alcohol and women. His second book did not receive that much of positive feedbacks compared to his first book, The Selling of the President.

The next book of Joe McGinniss, Heroes, which was published in 1976 and where he mixed journalism with memoir5, still did not receive positive feedback that would remind his success with the Selling of the President; but he was regarded as an honest and diligent writer after on. In 1980, he published Going to Extremes which regained his popularity. McGinniss wrote about his adventures in Alaska in Going to Extremes and following the success of this book, he was on the cover page of New York Times Book Review4

In 1979, Joe McGinniss became well-known nationwide after he met with Jeffrey MacDonald, who was a former doctor in US Army and who was accused of murdering his wife and children in 1970. McGinniss and MacDonald had an agreement and McGinniss started working on MacDonald’s case. He has worked on MacDonald’s case for more than three years and published his stunning book Fatal Vision in 1983. This book sold over 3 million copies and Joe McGinniss gained reputation nationwide after publishing it4. Next year Fatal Vision was converted to TV series to be shown at NBC 9. In Fatal Vision Joe McGinniss described Jeffrey MacDonald as a murderer who has psychological problems and this frustrated the imprisoned MacDonald too much that he decided to sue Joe McGinniss for breach of contract. MacDonald claimed that McGinniss acted as if he believed he was innocent just to collect information from him for his book; however he had already known MacDonald was guilty. MacDonald filed a civil suit against McGinniss that was settled out of court on 21 August 1987 10. McGinnis paid $325,000 to MacDonald, but he personally received only $48,000. The Kassabs, his wife’s family, sued MacDonald for the settlement and received $80,000. MacDonald's mother received $93,000 and his lawyers received $104,000 2. The disagreement between Joe McGinniss and Jeffrey MacDonald has been used as the main material of The Journalist and The Murderer, a book that was written by Janet Malcolm to explain the problems between journalist and their subjects 1.

Joe McGinniss continued writing true crime novels and his next book was Blind Faith, which was published in 1989 and converted to TV series in 1990 to be shown at NBC. Blind Faith is a true-crime book which is about the three boys' crumbling faith in their smooth-talking, high-flying father; on that level, it is often moving and heart-wrenching11. Following Blind Faith, Joe McGinniss published Cruel Doubt in 1991, which was shown at NBC in 1992. Cruel Doubt is a true-crime book which describes a distorted mother-son relationship, where the son murders his mother and rich stepfather to inherit $ 2 million 12.

Following his true-crime trilogy, Joe McGinniss wrote a book about Teddy Kennedy13, The Last Brother in 1993. In this book he portrayed the Kennedy family through the sixties, from Jack's ascension to the presidency, through the first assassinations, Chappaquiddick, their father's death, and finally to Teddy's solitary survival. This book received negative feedback from the critics who were sympatric to Kennedy family. He was also accused of plagiarism by Doris Goodwin14, but this was never proved 3.

In 1995, McGinniss was offered $ 1 million by his publisher to follow the trial of O. J. Simpson, who was accused of murdering his ex-wife and a friend of hers. Although he followed the trial between January-October 1995, he turned down this offer despite being present throughout the entire event4. He thought the trial had been a farce from beginning to end.

After spending years in writing true-crime books and investigating crime cases to collect material for his books, Joe McGinniss decided to write a book about a completely different topic, soccer. Joe McGinniss watched the 1994 World Cup which was held in US. Since he lived close to Gillette Stadium he had the chance to watch two games in that stadium. He has witnessed the passion and the excitement soccer offers and become a soccer fan rapidly. Then he heard about a soccer team in Italy, Castel di Sangro, which represents the 5000 populated town of Castel di Sangro in second division, Serie B. To follow the unbelievable achievement of this closer, McGinniss decided to spend a year in Italy although he spoke no Italian and needed a translator. In his book, The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, Joe McGinniss shared his experiences he had with Castel di Sangro team. Joe McGinniss witnessed that Castel di Sangro players throwing their final game of the season against Bari, to ensure that Bari promotes to top division, Serie A and he wrote about this incident in his book 15. Following this, the mafia in Castel di Sangro was after him; therefore he needed to return back to US immediately.

McGinniss’s passion in sports did not fade away and in 2004 came out his next book, The Big Horse. Joe McGinniss tried to recapture his lost love of horse racing by following P. G. Johnson and his horse Volponi throughout the 2003 racing season16. In 2007, McGinniss published Never Enough, in which he returned back to writing true-crime novels. In this book, he described the murder of a banker, Robert Kissel, by his wife Nancy in Hong Kong, an unhappy wife who murders her husband so that she can be with her blue-collar lover4.

The rise of Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, Sarah Plain, caught the attention of Joe McGinniss before 2008 Presidential Elections. His controversial article called Pipe Dreams was published in Portfolio5 in April 2009. He continued to gather information about Sarah Palin and her campaign and he found a chance to have dinner with her through a bid on Ebay; but he lost the bid just by $ 3,500. Currently he is working on his new book, Sarah Palin’s Year of Living Dangerously, which is going to be released in 2011.




  1. "Joe McGinniss: Master of the True Crime Genre". New York Writers Institute. April, 2010 <>.
  2. Montaldo, Charles. "Jeffrey MacDonald's Legal Maze". Crime/Punishment. April, 2010 <>.
  3. Appelo, Tim, “Whose Words Are They, Anyway?” July 30, 1993, Entertainment Weekly,,,307458,00.html
    Kurtz, Howard, “McGinniss In the Line Of Fire Again; Kennedy Author Manchester Levels Plagiarism Charge,” Washington ‘’Post’’, July 19, 1993, p. B01
    Keller, Julia, “Doris Kearns Goodwin: Truth takes more hits ; The growing plagiarism file dishonors world's Daniel Pearls,” Chicago ‘’Tribune’’, February 25, 2002, p. 1
    Telegraph Herald - NewsBank, “Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin under fire Plagiarism charges: The Pulitzer Prize-winning author has become the subject of panels she once sat on,” March 12, 2002; Page a8.
  4. "Joe McGinniss Biography". The Internet Movie Database. April, 2010 <>.
  5. McGinniss, Joe. "Pipe Dreams". April, 2010 <>.
  6. "Howard Cosell". Film Reference. April, 2010 <>.
  7. LBJ Library staff. "HUBERT HORATIO HUMPHREY VICE PRESIDENT, 1965-1969 ". Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum National Archives and Records Administration. April, 2010 <>.
  8. "Richard M. Nixon ". The White House. April, 2010 <>.
  9. "Fatal Vision". The Internet Movie Database. April, 2010 <>.
  10. "The MacDonald Case". Bakedmedia Inc.. April, 2010 <>.
  11. Naughton, James. "Blind Faith". Barnes&Noble. April, 2010 <>.
  12. "Cruel Doubt". Amazon. April, 2010 <>.
  13. "Senator Edward M. Kennedy 1932-2009". The Committee for a Democratic Majority. April, 2010 <>.
  14. "Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author and Presidential Historian". Blithedale Productions. April, 2010 <>.
  15. Hill, John Chidley. "The World Cup should be watched with a grain of salt". John Chidley April, 2010 <>.
  16. Estey-Burtt, Brandi. "Art of Fact". St. Thomas University California. April, 2010 <>.