Born: November 24, 1961
Ohio connection: Birth
Mark Winegardner, chosen by Random House from among three dozen candidates to continue the Godfather saga created by Mario Puzo, was born and raised in Bryan, Ohio. Named one of the “100 Best Small Towns in America” by author Norman Crampton, Bryan, situated in Ohio’s northwestern corner near the Indiana and Michigan borders, was the ideal starting point for the numerous Winegardner family vacations taken all across the United States in the family’s RVs. Between graduating from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a B.A. in 1983 and marrying Laura Ryll in 1984, Winegardner took yet another road trip, this time in a ’68 Chevy Impala, with a college friend and $500.00. An account of the two-month trip became his first book, Elvis Presley Boulevard: From Sea to Shining Sea, Almost (1988), which has been favorably compared to the road trip tales of Jack Kerouac (On the Road) and John Steinbeck (Travels with Charlie). His next book, Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout, (1990) follows one of major league baseball’s most successful scouts, Tony Lucadello, as he makes his rounds during his last season. Beloved by baseball and sports fans everywhere, the book was named one of the best books of 1990 by Baseball America, the Plain Dealer, New York Public Library, the American Library Association and others. Winegardner’s first novel, Veracruz Blues (1996) also centers on baseball and its history. Winegardner next introduced and edited We Are What We Ate: 24 Memories of Food (1998), a book of food-related essays whose profits benefited Share Our Strength, a hunger prevention program. Winegardner, who spent time in Cleveland, teaching at John Carroll University and writing for the Free Times, called his second novel Crooked River Burning (2001). This epic love story begins in the roaring Cleveland of the 1940’s and ends in the late 1960’s when the Cuyahoga, or Crooked River, was indeed burning. The New York Times Book Review deemed it: “Brilliant…what gives the book its edge is its setting: Cleveland. Winegardner weaves the love story through the fabric of a tumultuous era.” His short story collection That’s True of Everybody (2002) collects stories previously published in magazines such as American Fiction, Passages North, Playboy, and Story Quarterly. Winegardner, who has an M.F.A. from George Mason University, currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida, where he is the director of the creative writing program at Florida State University. His novel The Godfather Returns continues the story of the Corleone family beginning where Puzo’s 1969 novel ends.
Playboy College Fiction finalist, 1986, for “Summer in Blue”; Irene Leache Fiction Award, 1987, for “More Than a Casual Fan.”