Tennis star Andre Agassi. Nike founder Phil Knight. Movie star George Clooney. Prince Harry. All men connected by the memoir writing of J.R. Moehringer, a former L.A. Times journalist who said his career was in reverse before he wrote a breakout story in the late ’90s. The story, about a man living on the streets of L.A. while claiming to be a once renowned heavyweight boxer, “changed my life,” Moehringer said in a 2000 interview.
“I was just languishing at the L.A. Times,” he said. “I was in their ghetto, the Orange County edition, writing business stories. I had taken a giant step backward in my career after feeling like I had gotten some traction at The New York Times and The Rocky Mountain News and now I was writing these awful boring stories I forgot about before I was even finished with them.”
All of that changed with his boxer story, which was later adapted into the 2007 movie Resurrecting the Champ, which got mixed reviews. Moehringer two years later won a Pulitzer at the L.A. Times for a feature story on a small Alabama town that’s home to generations of American slave descendants. Then he ghost wrote the bestselling memoirs of Agassi and Knight, had his own bestselling memoir adapted into an upcoming movie directed by Clooney, wrote a historical novel, and got a reported $1 million advance for ghostwriting Prince Harry’s memoir. Representatives for Moehringer could not be reached for comment.
Moehringer said once was “obsessed” with the boxer story because it had “this question of men who hide their identity and drop out of society, because of course, that was my father.” Maybe Prince Harry, who effectively fled his royal family by coming to Southern California with wife Meghan Markle and their young child, can be seen as a man who chose to drop out of a certain type of society. The former royal has quickly made inroads in Hollywood, swapping out one sort of high society for another.
“I am writing this not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become,” Prince Harry said in a statement on the memoir. The Royal Family has yet to comment publicly on the book, which is due out late next year.
How Moeringer came to be selected as Prince Harry’s memoirist is unclear, although their mutual connection to Clooney is suspected to have played a role. The two reportedly started work on the memoir before it was even sold to a publisher.
But Moehringer has a more romantic take on how the subjects of his books come about than simply mutual connections or agent deal-making.
“Choosing a book is like choosing a mate,” Moehringer said. “We want to think there is a choice, but something else is at work and if not fate, it’s something for which we don’t have a word.”
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