John Sedgwick is a man of many parts. A journalist, memoirist, novelist, biographer and historian, he has written, or co-written, thirteen books, most recently Blood Moon: An American Epic of War and Splendor in the Cherokee Nation, due out in April, 2018. His 1985 book on the Philadelphia Zoo, The Peaceable Kingdom, was the basis of a dramatic series on CBS television; his 2007 multi-generational family memoir, In My Blood: Six Generations of Madness and Desire in an American Family, was a bestseller; and his 2015 co-biography, War of Two: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel that Stunned the Nation won the Society of Cincinnati Prize and was a finalist for the George Washington Prize, both given for the year’s best book on the Founders. To judge by the critical reception, his work is characterized by its psychological insight, skillful story-telling, deep engagement, cinematic vividness, humor, and the wide range of its subjects.
John is a member of the storied Sedgwick clan that first arrived in America in 1636, and has produced such notables as the Federalist Speaker of the House of Representatives Theodore Sedgwick, the nineteenth century novelist Catharine Maria Sedgwick, and the sixties fashion icon Edie Sedgwick. The family has yielded deep connections for his books—the American history within his family memoir In My Blood, the Hamilton connection to Theodore Sedgwick in War of Two, and now the astonishing fact that Theodore Sedgwick’s grandniece, Harriet Gold, married into the Cherokee Ridge family of Blood Moon. John himself is the youngest child of a Boston investment advisor, R. Minturn Sedgwick, who was born in 1899 and played for Harvard in its fabled victory in the Rose Bowl of 1920. John grew up in the Boston suburb of Dedham, attended Groton School and Harvard College, from which he graduated magna cum laude in English in 1977.
He began his professional writing career as a Harvard senior, publishing a story about Minoan archaeology in Harvard Magazine and, with Anne Fadiman, a survey of Harvard bathroom graffiti in Esquire. At twenty-six, he wrote his first book, Night Vision, an extended profile of the private investigator Gil Lewis. Two more non-fiction works followed--Rich Kids, about America’s troubled young heirs and heiresses, and the aforementioned The Peaceable Kingdom. Then came the psychological thriller The Dark House, about a man who likes to follow people in his car, and the peril that leads him into; and the psychological mystery The Education of Mrs. Bemis, about an elderly dowager who enters an old-line psychiatric hospital, burdened by a terrible secret. The novels were followed by the family memoir and the history of the fatal rivalry between Burr and Hamilton, whose last letter before the duel at Weehawken was written to his close friend and legislative ally, Theodore Sedgwick.
John has had a flourishing magazine career, in which he has been a contributing editor for GQ, Self, Worth, and Newsweek, and published frequently in Esquire, Vanity Fair and the Atlantic, among many other publications. The topics have been diverse: the history, aesthetics, and commercial prospects of concrete (Atlantic), the presidential hopes of Massachusetts Governor William Weld (GQ), the inner life of boxer Mike Tyson (Newsweek), the WASP heritage of President George H. W. Bush (GQ) the nature of risk (Self), the gender politics of prostate cancer (GQ), the spectacular murder-suicide of Charles Stuart (Esquire), the miseries of Linux co-inventor Richard Stallman (Boston), the twisted tale of gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and his brother, William, the long-time president of the Massachusetts Senate (GQ), the first national account of the mobster, an account of Harvard’s tortured relationship with its Final Clubs (Vanity Fair). John’s article in Worth Magazine on the nation’s finest nonprofit organizations was nominated for a National Magazine Award. He has published nearly 500 articles altogether, and his work has been widely anthologized.
John has also co-written five books, including two on philanthropy with Charles Bronfman, one on the Massachusetts State Police investigation of Whitey Bulger, and one on the spectacular divorce cases of the Boston attorney, Gerald Nissenbaum.
He is presently at work on From the River to the Sea, a look at the battle between two great American railroads, the Santa Fe and the Rio Grande, to define the west starting in the 1870s. That is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2020.
On the home front, he was first married to Megan Marshall, a fellow English major at Harvard who went on to win a Pulitzer Prize in biography. With her, he has two grown children, Sara and Josephine, and two grandchildren, Logan and Kyla. He is now married to the CNN analyst and Financial Times columnist Rana Foroohar. He lives with her and her two children, Darya and Alex, in Brooklyn, New York, and in Chocorua, New Hampshire.