Barely three months after his first novel, "A Better Goodbye," was published, John Schulian heard his name called as the winner of the 2016 PEN ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. The book and the award caught up with him on the turf he staked out with yet another chapter in his career, a 20-year run as writer and producer for some of TV's most memorable dramas. Schulian spent a decade wandering the publishing industry's wasteland with the noirish "A Better Goodbye" before he found a publisher and saw his refusal to surrender rewarded with stellar reviews.
"Goodbye" is the tale of lost souls in rarely-seen precincts of Los Angeles, a melting pot stirred by a tragedy-haunted boxer, a college girl moonlighting as a sensual masseuse, a failed actor turned pimp, and a prison-hardened sociopath.The novel marks the latest turn in the career of the L.A.-born and Salt Lake City-reared Schulian. Before establishing himself as a nationally-syndicated sports columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times, he was a copy editor at the Salt Lake Tribune, a cityside reporter and pop music columnist at the Baltimore Evening Sun, and a sports writer at the Washington Post. He moved to Chicago in 1977 as a sports columnist at that city's Daily News. When the paper folded 13 months later, he shifted to the Sun-Times, where he won a National Headliner Award in 1979, was regularly in included in E.P. Dutton's annual "Best Sports Stories" anthology, and published a highly-regarded collection of his boxing writing, "Writers' Fighters and Other Sweet Scientists." Rupert Murdoch purchased the Sun-Times in 1984 and Schulian left less than six months later after a dust-up with one of Murdoch's editors. He landed at the Philadelphia Daily News long enough to win the 1985 Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism, and then took off for Hollywood at the invitation of Steven Bochco, creator of "Hill Street Blues." Schulian broke into TV with an "L.A. Law" script and moved on to work on the writing staffs of "Miami Vice," "The 'Slap' Maxwell Story," and "Wiseguy." He was a writer-producer on "Midnight Caller," "Reasonable Doubts," and "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" before he struck gold as a co-creator of "Xena: Warrior Princess," which became, for a while, the world's foremost syndicated TV series. He later wrote and produced such series as "JAG," "Outer Limits," and "Tremors" before shifting his focus back to prose.
Before, during and after his adventures in show business, he wrote for Sports Illustrated, GQ, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Oxford American, Inside Sports, Sport, Playboy, Deadspin, and msnbc.com. A collection of his baseball writing, "Twilight of the Long-ball Gods," was published in 2005, followed six years later by "Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand," a gathering of his best work on all sports. His journalism has been anthologized in "The Best American Sports Writing," "Reading the Fights," "Sports Classics," "Sports Illustrated's 50 Years of Great Writing," "Sports Illustrated's Great Football Writing," and "From Black Sox to Three-Peats: A Century of Chicago's Best Sports Writing." Schulian was also editor of "Football: Great Writing About the National Sport" and "The John Lardner Reader" and co-editor, with George Kimball, of two anthologies, "At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing" and "The Fighter Still Remains: A Celebration of Boxing in Poetry and Song from Ali to Zevon."
Fiction took its place on Schulian's list of credits after the turn of the century, when he published short stories on the websites Thuglit and the Classical and in the Prague Revue. His novel "A Better Goodbye" was published in December 2015, a month before his 71st birthday. He is presently at work on a second novel. You can keep track of what he's up to at www.johnschulian.com.