From the outset, I had a plan: to spend twenty years as a reporter, learning about the world, and then to turn that knowledge into books, plays and films. Three decades later, Contemporary Authors would have this to say about my efforts:“Leonard Gross’s twenty years experience as a reporter for national publications, including a twelve year association with Look, is reflected in the broad variety of topics he has chosen for his books: politics, foreign affairs, journalism, fitness, social drinking, history, and even a spy novel written with ABC News correspondent Pierre Salinger.”
I came home from my last foreign assignment – as Look’s European editor – convinced that I’d seen enough problems and determined to look for solutions. Almost alone among my journalistic peers, who are renowned for their cynicism, I had developed strong convictions about human beings’ basic goodness, as well as their capacity and desire to solve problems. I wrote a nonfiction book about that, 1985, and used the same themes in my first novel, Mirror. The question I was asking is posed at the beginning of 1985: “Is the world really worse off than ever, or is our sense of its problems simply more acute and courageous?” I believe the second possibility explains why we exist among such uncertainty and tumult today: we are at last confronting reality in an honest and emphatic way.
My concern with solutions extends to the personal realm. Over the years, in addition to works of nonfiction and fiction, I’ve co-authored or ghostwritten a series of books dedicated to self improvement. For me, each of these projects was like a graduate course with only one student, myself, and I was able to convert the lifetimes of learning of my co-authors, authorities in their fields, into accessible and beneficial advice for the lay reader.
There is no way for the following not to sound self-serving: What I do is very important to me. I can’t take on a project simply because it’s popular and ought to make money. I’m reasonably visible, have had several best-sellers, and won my share of awards; of the twenty one books I’ve authored, co-authored or ghostwritten, fourteen were selected by major book clubs – two were main selections – and I have nothing against either fame or money. But before I start a book – or a film or play – I have to believe that I’ll be a different person several years hence for having written it.