About the Author
John Sandford is the pseudonym of John Roswell Camp, an American author and journalist. Camp won the Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1986 and was one of four finalists for the prize in 1980. He also was the winner of the Distinguished Writing Award of the American Society of Newspaper Editors for 1985.
Camp is the author of fifty-four published novels, as of the summer of 2022, all of which have appeared, in one format or another, on the New York Times best-seller lists, many debuting at #1. In addition to the Prey, Virgil Flowers and Letty Davenport novels, all part of the Prey universe, he is also the co-author of three young-adult books in the Singular Menace series, written with Michele Cook, and co-author of the science-fiction thriller Saturn Run with Ctein.
He is the author of two non-fiction books, one on art (The Eye and the Heart: The Watercolors of John Stuart Ingle) and one on plastic surgery (Plastic Surgery: the Kindest Cut). His books have been translated into most European and Middle Eastern languages, as well as Japanese and Korean.
He was the principal financial backer, a digger and for many years photographer at the fifteen-year-long Beth-Shean Valley Archaeological Project in the Jordan River Valley of Israel. The dig resulted in a classic five-volume report on findings authored by dig director Amihai Mazar and assistant director Nava Panitz-Cohen, both of Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Camp was born February 23, 1944, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His maternal grandparents were immigrants from Lithuania and he spent many of his early years living on, or visiting, their rural acreage, with the traditional "three-holer," subsistence gardens, a variety of farm animals and fruit trees, and haying in the summers.
He attended Cedar Rapids Catholic and then public schools, graduating from Washington Senior High School in 1962. He received a bachelor's degree in American Studies in 1966, and a master's degree in journalism in 1971, both from the University of Iowa. Between his two stints at the University of Iowa, he served two years in the U.S. Army in Korea with the 4th U.S. Army Missile Command.
Camp was married to Susan Lee Jones in 1966, and has two children, Roswell Camp and Emily Curtis, and three grandchildren, Benjamin, Daniel and Gabriel Curtis. His wife, Susan, died of metastasized breast cancer in May, 2007.
In October, 2013, he married Michele Cook, a journalist and screenwriter. They currently live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In addition to co-authoring the three books in the Singular Menace series, Cook has done the initial editing of all the Sandford books since 2010.
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Camp's journalism career began as an Army reporter (he is included in the 'Hall of Fame' at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland.) After his release from the Army, he worked as a reporter for the Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Southeast Missourian for a year, covering such stories as the Cairo, Illinois, race riots.
He was a reporter and an editor at The Miami Herald from 1971-1978, and a reporter and columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press from 1978-1990. He continues to do occasional journalism and was embedded with the 2-147 Air Assault Battalion during the Iraq War and covered the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
In addition to archaeology, he is deeply interested in art (painting) and photography. He occasionally writes online articles on both. He enjoys reading history. He is interested in a number of outdoor sports, including fishing, canoeing, and skiing. He has, on occasion, both sailed and SCUBA-dived.
In 2010, he was thrown from a horse in the hills above Hollywood, California, and spent three months limping around and cursing horses. He is a golfer. He listens to a lot of Texas-based country music and thinks the world would be a better place if everybody listened to Guy Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver, Terry Allen, Waylon and Willie, and those guys.
Why doesn't he use his real name?
When it became apparent that his first two novels, Rules of Prey and The Fool's Run, were going to be published only three months apart, by different publishers, G.P. Putnam's Sons asked him to come up with a pseudonym for Rules of Prey. The publisher felt the near-simultaneous release of two different books, written in different styles, could create a marketing problem. Camp is a Civil War buff, and chose the name Sandford after his paternal great-grandfather, Henry Sandford, who fought with the Belle City Rifles, part of the Union Army's Iron Brigade, in that war.
Did he study writing (in some form) in college?
He took some writing courses at the well-known Iowa Writer's Workshops at the University of Iowa, but only as minor elective courses. He also wrote articles for The Daily Iowan, the university newspaper, but didn't get seriously involved in journalism until he was in the army. His most intense training in journalism came at the U.S. Army's Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. After graduation from that school, he became a military journalist in Korea, running a base newspaper for the 4th U.S. Army Missile Command in Chunchon, Korea. In an odd coincidence, the command's information officer, Lt. Robert Keeler, who was the only other American involved in the tiny paper, later worked for Newsday newspaper on Long Island, and also won a Pulitzer Prize.
What about the Pulitzer Prize and the journalism?
Camp was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1980, for a series of stories on Native American culture, and in 1986 he won the Pulitzer for Non-Deadline Feature Writing for a series of stories collectively titled Life on the Land: An American Farm Family.
The series, written during the Midwest farm crisis, followed a typical southwest Minnesota farm family through the course of a full year. He stopped writing full-time for the Pioneer Press in 1989, although he didn't stop writing for the paper entirely until the next year. In 1996 he wrote a ten-years-later follow-up to Life on the Land, and he's written occasional book reviews for the Fort Worth Star Telegram. More recently, he's written for MinnPost.com, a Minnesota-centered online newspaper.
And how about the archaeology?
Camp has always been an avid reader of history — his bachelor's degree is in American studies, which was a combination of American history and literature. He continued reading history through his career, American history at first, then going to modern European history, and finally, early history. That inevitably led him to the history books of the Bible, and in the middle 1990s, he traveled to Israel to tour the major sites of Biblical history.
While there, he met Amihai Mazar, then director of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Camp and Mazar got along well and began discussing the possibility of a large new excavation that would attempt to clarify Biblical chronology during the Iron Age.
The chronology was, and still is, a matter of some controversy, and directly deals with the question of the existence of, and extent of, the United Monarchy of David and Solomon. The dig began in 1997, continued through 2012, and involved the work of hundreds of volunteer diggers, including Camp. Aside from much work on the chronology, the dig uncovered the only known commercial apiary (beehive complex) ever found from the period. Before the dig, archaeologists and historians believed that the Biblical phrase "The land of milk and honey" referred to date honey, rather than natural bee honey. With the discovery of an industrial apiary at Rehov, it's now believed that the Biblical phrase may refer accurately to bee honey.
How many novels did he write before he got one accepted?
He wrote two novels that weren't accepted before he wrote The Fool's Run. The first, The Wheel Key Number, was a perhaps too-realistic detective story. The second, The Chippewa Zoo, was a near-future low-tech science fiction novel. They were never published by anyone, and they never will be. He also wrote an untitled ghost novel in 1993, but after some discussion, it was not published, the feeling being that it was too much of a divergence at that early point in his thriller writing career. (Also, when he reviewed it much later, hoping to revive it, he decided it was Not Very Good.)
What about the painting, photography, fishing, canoeing, skiing, sailing, golf, scuba diving, etc.?
Camp has always been a visual arts enthusiast and is a serious painter and photographer; his photos have appeared in various newspapers, magazines, and on-line venues. He does not show his paintings. He has also had a life-long interest in various outdoor sports. In 1980, he solo-paddled a canoe from Lake Itasca, the source of the Mississippi River in Northern Minesota, through New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier that same year, he cross-country skied from Fargo, North Dakota to Duluth, Minnesota, at New Years. He has skied in the American Birkebeiner, a 55-kilometer ski race held every February in Hayward, Wisconsin.
He and a partner were the last winners of the Dan Jenkins' Goat Hills golf tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, sponsored by the renowned Texas sportswriter and novelist. He quit SCUBA diving after going down to sixty feet in the Caribbean, then wondering why he was doing that. He quit sailing when he realized that it was much like driving across Kansas in an RV at eight miles an hour, except without freeway exits or gas station stops.
He still fishes (muskies) and once went bone fishing with his old friend Carl Hiaasen, the famous novelist and newspaper columnist from Florida, during which trip he learned that one should not go bone-fishing in thunderstorms. He stopped hunting a few years ago, and doesn't plan to kill any more deer.