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A Conversation with John Maclean FN’02

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

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A conversation with John Maclean FN'02. Webinar hosted by The Explorers Club San Diego Chapter Chair Char Glacy MN'09, NoCal Chapter Chair Tom Dolan MN’14, SoCal Chapter Chair Steve Elkins FN’16, and David Dolan MED'03. We all enjoyed the Robert Redford directed movie "A River Runs Through It" based upon John's father John Maclean's novella by the same name. His just released memoir, "Home Waters: A Chronicle of Family and a River" that picks up where the movie and novella concluded and gives some back story.

Home Waters: A Chronicle of Family and a River is John N. Maclean’s sixth book. An award winning author and journalist, he spent thirty years at the Chicago Tribune, most of that time as a Washington correspondent, before taking up a second career as an author. Since then, he has written five nonfiction books about wildland fires --- Fire on the Mountain, Fire and Ashes, The Thirtymile Fire, The Esperanza Fire, and River of Fire --- that are considered a staple of fire literature as well as training material for firefighters. All very germane to the world we currently live in.

Maclean is the son of Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs through It, the acclaimed novella about life in early twentieth century Montana. “It’s a good thing to have a sense of place, and Montana more than any place is where my family has its roots,” Maclean says. “We’ve been tied there in one way or another for five generations and counting. I’ve fished the Blackfoot River, the river in my book title, throughout my life, as my father did before me, his father before him, and my sons do now.”

John was born in Chicago, in 1943, a year after his sister, Jean. Norman was an English professor at the University of Chicago and the Maclean children attended the U of C school system from nursery school on, in Jean’s case through law school. John attended Shimer College in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, then a satellite school—the rural cousin—of the U of C. He later was a Neiman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University.

Maclean went to work for the legendary City News Bureau of Chicago as a police reporter in 1964 and was hired by the Tribune the following year. He married Frances McGeachie in 1968—the couple have two children, Dan, chief of the science division at Robert Service High School in Anchorage, AK, and John Fitzroy, a public defender specializing in young adult felonies for the state of Maryland. Maclean went to Washington as a correspondent for the Tribune in 1970 and remained there for eighteen years, most of that time as diplomatic correspondent. He was a regular on the “Kissinger Shuttle,” covering many of the journeys abroad of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

An avid fly-fisherman, Maclean divides his time between his residence in Washington, D.C. and the Maclean family cabin in Montana.

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