Tom Miller (travel writer)
Tom Miller (born August 11, 1947 in Washington, D.C.) is an American author primarily known for travel literature. His ten books include The Panama Hat Trail, On the Border, Trading With the Enemy, and Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink. He has written articles for the New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Smithsonian, Natural History, Rolling Stone, Life, Crawdaddy and many other magazines.
A Washington, D.C. native, Tom Miller's childhood was full of reading. The family read three newspapers daily, and the bookshelves of his home were always full. His earliest travels would be to Camp Catawba, a summer boys' camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. He wrote for his high school newspaper, and by his fifth and final semester of college, was editor-in-chief of the school's weekly paper. But this was the late 1960s, and the underground, anti-war press had for him a cultural and political appeal the college presses lacked. He would continue through the early 1970s editing and authoring underground pamphlets, papers, and flyers.
By 1969 he had moved to Tucson, Arizona. He tried working odd jobs—selling encyclopedias door-to-door and working as a janitor, both jobs lasting four weeks—but focused on living cheaply and writing for whatever money he could earn. His first break would come after authoring a short piece for SunDance magazine that an editor at Esquire happened to read. He had been paid all of $15 to write the article; the editor suggested his magazine would have paid $750 for the same work. Soon he would find his first mainstream work with them.
In a similar fashion, an offbeat 1975 article he wrote for Crawdaddy about the Kennedy Assassination was read by a literary agent who insisted it could be expanded into a full length book. This would become The Assassination Please Almanac, his first book, whose cover blurb called it "a consumer's guide to conspiracy theories."
Life on the southern U.S. border inspired his first travel book: On the Border: Portraits of America's Southwestern Frontier. He travelled the full 2,000 mile length of the United States–Mexico border researching it and interviewing its denizens. The book was published in 1981.
His travelogueThe Panama Hat Trail (1986) follows the production of a (misnomered) Panama hat from the straw fields of Ecuador, its weaving by Indian peasants, to its finishing in a North American hat factory, and finally the sale to a San Diego retail store.
His book Jack Ruby’s Kitchen Sink: Offbeat Portraits of America’s Southwest, won the 2000 Lowell Thomas Award for "Best Travel Book of the Year," given by the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation.
He conceived and edited the book How I Learned English: 55 Accomplished Latinos Recall Lessons in Language and Life, published simultaneously in Spanish in 2007.
He has also edited anthologies about Cuba and the Mexican border and was a major contributor to the 4-volume Encyclopedia Latina. His collection of over 80 versions of La Bamba led to his Rhino Records compilation The Best of La Bamba.
The University of Arizona Library acquired Miller's archives and mounted a major exhibit of his papers. He has served as adjunct research associate at the University of Arizona’s Latin American Area Center since 1990, and resides in Tucson with his wife, Regla Albarrán. In 2008 the City of Quito, at a public ceremony in its Centro Historico, proclaimed Miller “Un Huésped Ilustre” (An Illustrious Guest) for his literary contributions to Ecuador. One of Miller's siblings is Charles A. Miller (1937), Professor Emeritus of Politics and American Studies, Lake Forest College.
Quotes on Writing
"Great travel writing consists of equal parts curiosity, vulnerability and vocabulary. It is not a terrain for know-it-alls or the indecisive. The best of the genre can simply be an elegant natural history essay, a nicely writ sports piece, or a well-turned profile of a bar band and its music. A well-grounded sense of place is the challenge for the writer. We observe, we calculate, we inquire, we look for a link between what we already know and what we're about to learn. The finest travel writing describes what's going on when nobody's looking." 
"No camera, no recording device, no laptop, none of this palm pilot nonsense or a cell phone. Paper and pencil, a book, maybe a bilingual dictionary. Anything beyond that (a) can be stolen, and (b) intimidates people you encounter. The more double-A batteries you carry, the more you distance yourself from the people you're writing about."
- Potts, Rolf. "Tom Miller". Retrieved 2006-08-04.
- Globe Corner Bookstore. "Tom Miller".
- Travelers' Tales Inc. "Travelers' Tales Cuba True Stories Edited by Tom Miller (review)".
- "Tom Miller's Books".
- Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalists. "Tom Miller". Retrieved 2006-08-04.
- Miller, Tom (16 June 2005). "Under the Skin of a Locale: Tucson's Tom Miller explains what makes great travel writing". Tucson Weekly. Retrieved 2006-08-04.
- How I Learned English: 55 Latinos Recall Lessons in Language and Life, (ed) (2007)
- Writing on the Edge: A Borderlands Reader, (ed) (2003)
- Travelers' Tales—Cuba, (ed) (2001)
- Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink: Offbeat Travels Through America's Southwest, (2000)
- Trading With the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba, (1992)
- The Panama Hat Trail: A Journey From South America, (1986)
- Arizona: The Land and the People, (ed) (1986)
- The Interstate Gourmet: Texas and the Southwest, (co-author) (1986)
- On the Border: Portraits of America's Southwestern Frontier, (1981)
- The Assassination Please Almanac, (1977)
A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration, by Michael Shapiro, pp. 325–343.