Peace Corps Writers
Talking with . . .
Mark Jacobs

Laurence Leamer’s books are listed in the Bibliography of Peace Corps Writers

Read Paul Shovlin's REVIEW of Sons of Camelot

An interview by John Coyne
LARRY LEAMER IS FROM the first generation of Peace Corps Volunteers and the first generation of Peace Corps writers — and one ofPrinter friendly version the more successful writers from our ranks.
     A professor’s son, he went to Antioch College in Ohio, and stood on Pennsylvania Avenue on the frigid January morning in 1961 when John Kennedy rode to the White House after being sworn in as President. That marked the beginning for him of a long connection with the Kennedy family.
     He has now, with the publication of Sons of Camelot, written three books about the family, and is one of the leading authorities on the Kennedys past, present, and future. We caught up with Larry recently to talk about his new book, his history with the Kennedys, and the Peace Corps.
  Where are you from, Larry?
    I was born in Chicago where my father was a professor at the University of Chicago. I attended a tough south side elementary school, until fifth grade when we moved to upstate New York where I entered a two-room school.
   What was your Peace Corps country?
I was in Nepal from sixty-four to sixty-six.
When did you start writing?
In graduate school. I was a student studying international development at the University of Oregon. The first piece I ever wrote was for Old Oregon, the alumni magazine, about what it was like being a returned Volunteer and an anti-war activist. I then took a course in magazine writing and talked my way on to George Wallace’s campaign plane in the fall of 1969 when he made his first trip north. I wrote an article and submitted it cold to The New Republic and The Nation. They both accepted it, and The New Republic published it, and I was on my way.
Have you written much about Nepal?
I wrote about the country in Ascent: The Spiritual and Physical Quest of Legendary Mountaineer Willi Unsoeld.
     I also lived in Peru for two years and wrote a novel about drug trafficking.
Tell us something about the writing of the Unsoeld book.
It was tough in many ways. I was absolutely broke going through a divorce with $500 to my name. I started out idealistically working with Jolene, Willi’s widow. I spent months researching and learning about Willi, climbing the Grand Teton, the mountain on which he guided, living on credit cards. After many months when I wrote a book proposal, something like ten publishers were interested. At that moment Jolene said that she couldn’t deal with me writing the book and I would have to forsake the project. I went out to visit the family and she started hyperventilating at one point. I went ahead.
     Actually she ended up in Congress, where she made some notable contributions.
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