Cover of 'An Unfinished Season.'
Ward Just is the author of more than a dozen works of historical fiction. His latest novel, An Unfinished Season, is set in 1950s suburban Chicago. Its hero, Wils Ravan, is a young copy boy working for a tabloid newspaper in the city.
Just tells NPR's Scott Simon the story is somewhat autobiographical. A former newspaper and magazine correspondent, he, too, grew up outside of Chicago in the 1950s where his family owned the Waukegan News-Sun for three generations.
After spending several years during the 1960s covering political campaigns and the Vietnam War — where he was wounded — Just felt he "finally knew enough to write fiction."
For Just, that knowledge is firmly based in reality. He takes pride in the fact that his characters are "rooted in the world" and expresses genuine wonder at characters in other novels who don't seem to work, vote or discuss politics around the dinner table.
Just's other titles include Jack Gance (1989), Echo House (1997) and The Weather in Berlin (2003). His nonfiction work includes To What End: Report from Vietnam (1968) and the introduction to Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1959-1975.
Just received an O. Henry Award first prize in 1985 for his short story "About Boston."