Lindsay Stafford Mader 2016-04-25 03:15:21
The Seeker A Dallas attorney searches history for insight and answers. Talmage Boston often wears a pensive look, his eyes slightly squinted and brows furrowed, that suggests he is deep in thought. And chances are, he is. An attorney for almost 38 years as well as a writer and professional interviewer, Boston has a lot on his mind—whether it’s a strategy for an upcoming trial, a sentence to tweak on his new manuscript, or the questions that will get Henry Kissinger to say things he has never said before. When it comes to writing, the Winstead litigator focuses on the topics he knows and likes the best, a successful approach considering that his books on the history of baseball and lawyering have received praise from the likes of Nolan Ryan, John Grisham, and former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. Boston’s fourth book marries his writing and interviewing careers with his lifelong passion for presidential history, featuring edited transcripts of his conversations with dozens of prominent political figures and historians. Cross-Examining History: A Lawyer Gets Answers From the Experts About Our Presidents will be published by Bright Sky Press in September. Boston deeply studies the people he interviews, sometimes spending months reading and taking notes on their work. Many who have sat in the hot seat recognize his interrogation skills. Abraham Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer said that Boston combines “the curiosity of Charlie Rose with the gravitas of Edward R. Murrow” and that he brings “out the best in his subjects and truly makes history come alive.” Former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker has said that Boston “gets to the meat of the subject quickly, wastes no time, and throws only hardballs,” while S.C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon, wrote that Boston is “the best interviewer on the planet.” Luckily for Texas attorneys, Boston and Gwynne will take the stage again for a conversation during the Friday luncheon of the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting on June 17 in Fort Worth. What’s your writing process like? I write all my first drafts early in the morning when I have no distractions. Editing takes place throughout the day when time is available. My first draft is written in longhand, since the creative part of my brain seems to be directly connected to my hand. What is it about presidents that you find so fascinating? They are the most powerful people in the world, who have dealt with the most important problems of our society. Thus, they have had the biggest impact on history. They are also flawed human beings who are burdened with the same life issues all of us face. So I enjoy going deep on both their human side—what Ken Burns calls their “emotional archaeology”—and also learning about how they made their important decisions. Which 2016 presidential candidate would you most like to examine in depth? None of them—since none of them appear to be heroic, in any sense of the word, and all of them appear to be not just flawed but deeply flawed. To dig deep on any of them would produce some fascinating stories, but none of them, thus far, appear to be people who I deeply admire. In my books, I mainly focus on researching and writing about people who I admire. Why do you like baseball when many Americans, especially younger people, are increasingly drawn to other sports? People who like baseball typically like it because they fell in love with the game during childhood. That’s what happened to me when, growing up in Houston, I had a great Little League experience; collected and memorized the information on baseball cards my mother didn’t throw away; read every fiction and nonfiction baseball book I could get my hands on; and cheered for the Houston Colt .45s, who became the Astros when the Astrodome opened in 1965. When studying people to interview, are you more interested in their childhoods and early adulthoods or the experiences they have had and the choices they have made after stepping into prominent positions? I like all parts of people’s lives that are important toward understanding how they turned out to be who they are. I have no favorite parts of a lifespan to study—I’m just interested in the most meaningful parts, and that takes place at different times for different people. What’s the secret to composing a really good interview question? Go through several revisions to keep refining one’s thoughts—so there are no wasted words, and the questions asked give the interviewees the chance to think deeply and show their stuff. The audience came to the event to watch the interviewee—not the interviewer—speak and shine. What’s the most surprising thing somebody has said in an interview? Sheldon Stern, former historian-in-residence at the JFK Presidential Library, said that what Bobby Kennedy and Ted Sorensen wrote about the Cuban missile crisis in the best-selling book Thirteen Days was basically false, a story they created as Bobby was running for president in order to make him appear to be the calm hero of the crisis, when in fact, he was the hothead who would have led us into World War III but for his brother’s staying calm and reasonable. If you could interview anybody in the world, who would it be? Among the dead, it would be Abraham Lincoln. Among the living, it would be James Taylor, whose music I’ve loved ever since his first big hit Fire and Rain was released in early-1970 when I was a high school sophomore. So I’m coming up on almost a half-century of following his music religiously, and I’ve never met him. That’s why he’s my bucket list interview. What’s your strategy for managing to act normal around these famous people? Treat them with respect and courtesy, but not awe. Once they see you’re fully prepared, organized, not intimidated, and have a sense of humor, they are typically cooperative and engaging. Do you ever wish that you could dedicate your time to the one career—law or writing/interviewing—that you enjoy most? Practicing law provides me with a nice income that has allowed my wife and me to raise a family. It also offers me the opportunity to engage in my favorite activities: speaking, writing, interrogating, and problem-solving. I’m now over 62 years old, and in the years ahead I hope to maintain a solid legal practice while continuing to pursue writing, public speaking, and interviewing. This allows me to have the best of two very good worlds. For Boston’s summer reading list, go to texasbar.com/talmage. Dallas attorney Talmage Boston poses a question to author S.C. Gwynne onstage at the LBJ Presidential Library on December 11, 2014. Boston will interview Gwynne about his best-selling book Empire of the Summer Moon at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in June.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/In+Recess/2465722/299572/article.html.