Joe McGinniss, a noted adventurer and author whose classic “Selling of the President” about the campaign of Richard Nixon landed him on the best-seller list at 26 and who then went on to author the blockbuster crime book “Fatal Vision,” died at 71 on Monday.
McGinniss was born on Dec. 9, 1942 in New York City and went on to graduate from Holy Cross before becoming a reporter at the Worcester Telegram and later a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
McGinniss died at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass., of complications related to prostate cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 2013, his attorney and longtime friend Dennis Holahan told NBC News.
It was at the Inquirer in 1968 when an advertising man told McGinniss he was joining Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign, The Associated Press reported. That gave him an idea for a story, but Humphrey turned him down. Nixon accepted and the book went on to be most Americans’ first exposure to the slick packaging and staging of presidential campaigns.
Then came his trilogy of true crime books, including best-seller “Fatal Vision,” “Blind Faith,” and “Cruel Doubt.” All three books were made into TV miniseries.
According to his official obituary, provided by the Dennis Black Agency, McGinniss sat through the O.J. Simpson murder case in 1995, expecting to write a book about it, but he returned the $1 million advance after Simpson was acquitted, saying the trial had been "a farce."
His last book was “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin” for which he received criticism from the former Republican vice-presidential candidate for renting a house next to hers in Alaska.
According to a biography on his website, "McGinniss has always been drawn to scrutinize the mysterious space between image and reality in his subjects: how that space is created, negotiated and/or manipulated."
McGinniss was working on a memoir chronicling his adventures as a writer and his experience with prostate cancer when he died, his agent said.
He is survived by his second wife, Nancy Doherty, as well five children, including two from his first marriage to Chris Cooke McGinniss.
—Jeff Black, with The Associated Press
First published March 10 2014, 7:58 PM