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John Dunning's Biography

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John Dunning was born in 1942 in Brooklyn, NY. He was raised in Charleston, SC, is married, and has two adult children.

John always wanted to write, but was a poor student. He left high school in the tenth grade, partly because of an inability to concentrate and absorb lectures. Several years ago he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), a malady that could not have been imagined in the glorious 1950s.

John Dunning
Photo by Katie Dunning

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"This may explain my long affection for typewriters," he says. "Unlike a computer, a great old manual typewriter was an honest machine. You did your work, it did its work. There was no sneaky nonsense, no hidden screens that popped up and wouldn't go away, and at no time in my 35 years as a writer did I ever 'lose' anything because I hit a certain key, failed to hold my mouth right, or sneezed at the wrong moment."

John felt he should be a poster boy for ADD. Often the inability to concentrate demanded eight or ten hours of effort for two good hours of work. Sometimes it leads a writer away from his story, causing a month's worth of drifting, rambling around, groping. "In those times I really have to work to get my story, whatever it is, back on track."

John got a GED certificate from the state of South Carolina in the early 1960s. "Historically, it's an interesting document---not because it's mine but because it states that I am the equivalent of the average white high school grad in the state. Now if that's not an official admission that those old 'separate-but-equal' doctrines never worked, what is?

"I was a raging failure early in life. Quit high school, then got kicked out of the Army with a broken eardrum after only two weeks, went on to work in a Charleston glass shop for $1.05 an hour, and looked to be on a fast track to nowhere.

"In 1964 I made my break with Charleston, came to Denver with some friends, worked in a glass shop here for a time, then got on the racetrack and went with the horses for two years. I worked for horse trainers in Denver, Idaho and California, finally hitting the 'big time' at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, CA. This was a magic time in my life.

"In 1966 I got a job as a clerk in the library at The Denver Post, which was then the city's afternoon daily. Eventually I became copy boy on the newspaper, and from that I began writing stories. Finally I was given a trial run as a reporter and soon was put on the newspaper's three-man investigative team.

"This only goes to prove that the hardest thing about any job is getting it.

"I was a collector of old-time radio shows for 30 years. I grew up with this stuff. It was like collecting part of my own life. I parlayed that into a weekly radio show, which I hosted on Denver radio for more than 25 years.

"I worked in politics for a while: campaign press secretary to candidates for mayor of Denver, U.S. Senate, and House of Representatives. I taught writing and journalism at the University of Denver and at Metropolitan State College and in 1973 I worked on the Robert Altman film, Thieves Like Us. Altman's film was based on the 1937 novel by Edward Anderson, and he wanted it scored with old radio shows. My job--which lasted six weeks--was to find the right sounds to fit his story.

"In 1984, with my wife Helen, I opened the Old Algonquin Bookstore in East Denver. We closed the store in 1994, two years after Booked to Diewas published, and have been online booksellers ever since."

John's latest challenge has been a large benign brain tumor, which was partially removed in 2006, causing the loss of one eye and some ongoing neurological problems which have prevented him from completing another book.  -- A frustrating time.




Booked To Die, John's best known title and the first Cliff Janeway novel. Click on the pictures of the books for an enlarged view.

Booked To Die, John's best known title and the first Cliff Janeway novel.  Click on the pictures of the books for an enlarged view.

Bookman's Wake was a finalist for the Edgar (US) and the Gold Dagger Award (England)

Bookman's Wake was a finalist for the Edgar (US) and the Gold Dagger Award (England)

Bookscout, a short story, was published as a chapbook for five regional book fairs in 1998. Five hundred copies each were issued in Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Boston and Washington, with the designation on the back panel of the dust jacket.

Bookscout, a short story, was published as a chapbook for five regional book fairs in 1998.  Five hundred copies each were issued in Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Boston and Washington, with the designation on the back panel of the dust jacket.

Tune In Yesterday, published in 1976. The publisher subtitled this The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, but it must not have been too ultimate. On The Air, published by Oxford in 1998, contained at least three times as much data.

Tune In Yesterday, published in 1976.  The publisher subtitled this The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, but it must not have been too ultimate.  On The Air, published by Oxford in 1998, contained at least three times as much data.

The Bookman's Promise. Publication date March 2004. The third Cliff Janeway book mystery. ISBN 0-7432-4992-5.

The Bookman's Promise. Publication date March 2004.  The third Cliff Janeway book mystery.  ISBN 0-7432-4992-5.


To find John Dunning titles that are in print, please contact your favorite bookseller or:
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Try these sites for used, out-of-print, or collectible copies of books by John Dunning:
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Other book links:
SimonSays.comThe information page of publisher Simon & Schuster.

For information about Colorado booksellers and book activities: RMABA