|Born||August 17, 1956|
Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
|Genre||Long-form journalism, Fiction, Biography|
Mike Sager (born August 17, 1956) is an author and journalist. He has been called "the Beat poet of American journalism, that rare reporter who can make literature out of shabby reality."
A former Washington Post staff writer, Rolling Stone contributing editor, and writer at large for GQ, Sager has been a contributing writer for Esquire for more than three decades. In 2010 he received the American Society of Magazine Editors' National Magazine award for profile writing for his story "The Man Who Never Was," which appeared in Esquire. He is the author of more than a dozen books and e-books, and has served as an editor on several journalism text books. More than a dozen of his articles have been optioned for or have inspired Hollywood feature films, including Boogie Nights, starring Mark Wahlberg, and Wonderland, starring Val Kilmer,. In 2012 The Marinovich Project, a documentary based on Sager's Esquire article and featuring Sager as a narrator, aired on ESPN. Sager has read and lectured at many American schools of journalism. In 2012 he founded The Sager Group LLC, a content brand that publishes books, makes film and video, and designs logos, products and other marketing tools.
For most of his career, Sager worked as an investigative and embedded journalist and as an educator. In 2011 he founded The Sager Group LLC, a content brand, see more below.
In 2004 he released his first collection, Scary Monsters and Super Freaks, which became a Los Angeles Times bestseller, as did his next book, Revenge of the Donut Boys which was released in 2007. His first novel, Deviant Behavior, was published by Grove/Atlantic's Black Cat in April 2008. A third collection, Wounded Warriors, was published in October 2008 and received the Military Writers Society of America Founder's Award and the American Author's Association Golden Quill Award. Tattoos & Tequila: To Hell and Back with One of Rock's Most Notorious Frontmen, with Vince Neil, published in September 2010, was a New York Times best seller. His fourth collection, The Someone You're Not, was published by The Sager Group in October 2012, as was Next Wave: America's New Generation of Great Literary Journalists, edited with Walt Harrington. His second novel, High Tolerance, was published by The Sager Group in May 2013.The Devil and John Holmes-25th Anniversary Author's Edition: And Other True Stories of Drugs, Porn, and Murder, was published in 2014.Stoned Again: The High Times and Strange Life of a Drugs Correspondent, was published by Byliner Selects in 2015. The Lonely Hedonist: True Stories of Sex, Drugs, Dinosaurs and Peter Dinklage, was published by The Sager Group in 2017. The second edition of Revenge of the Donut Boys was issued by The Sager Group in 2018. VetVille: True Stories of the US Marines was issued by The Sager Group in 2019. Shaman: The Mysterious Life and Impeccable Death of Carlos Castaneda was issued by The Sager Group and NeoText in 2020. Hunting Marlon Brando: A True Story was issued by The Sager Group and NeoText in 2021.
Early life and education
Sager was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Beverly Rosenberg and Marvin Miles Sager—from, respectively, Culpeper and Fredericksburg, Virginia. The family, along with younger sister Wendy, eventually settled in Baltimore, Maryland. Sager graduated from Pikesville High School in 1974. At Emory University he played varsity soccer; served as president of his fraternity, Tau Epsilon Phi; was selected to Phi Beta Kappa; and was an editor of several school publications, including the college's literary magazine and weekly newspaper The Emory Wheel. where he served under Henry Schuster, a lifelong friend who would go on to become an award-winning producer at CNN and CBS 60 Minutes
During his senior year at Emory, Sager studied creative writing with the noted author and jazz historian Albert Murray, who would have a profound influence on his writing style, introducing the notions of rhythm and music in the context of prose. That year he also interned at the alternative weekly Creative Loafing, his first taste of professional journalism. He received his BA in history in June 1978.
After failing the spelling and typing tests administered by the human resources department of the Washington Post, Sager managed to land a lesser position as a copy boy on the 7 p.m. — 3 a.m. graveyard shift. Eleven months later, working in his off-hours as a freelancer, Sager broke an investigative story about abuses at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, his first front-page article at the Post. That evening, he was called into the glass office of then-metro editor Bob Woodward and promoted to staff writer.
Over the next five years, under the supervision of publisher Donald E. Graham, who had taken an interest in Sager as he worked his way up from copy boy to reporter, Sager moved through the ranks from night police, to cops and courts, to night rewrite, to general assignment, most of that time under Graham's former Harvard roommate, city editor Herb Denton. Along the way, Sager would be assigned to work with newly arrived editor Walt Harrington, who asked him, upon their first meeting, "Have you ever read Tom Wolfe?" The epiphany of reading Wolfe's primer, The New Journalism, would follow shortly thereafter. (Harrington would go on to author several books, most notably Intimate Journalism, that have been used as primers in universities nationwide. He subsequently served as dean of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's College of Media.) In time, Sager became a roving feature writer, charged with covering rural Virginia, a role he would later liken to that of a foreign correspondent.
In the fall of 1983, Sager took a leave of absence from the Post to travel around Asia and the Far East, doing journalism and seeing the world. For one story, he spent six weeks in Nepal with a group of doctors and medical students; they trekked to a region that had been settled by Tibetan Buddhist refugees and set up a medical clinic. While in Kathmandu, Sager interviewed Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, the King of Nepal, who would later die in a massacre with most of his family. Also on that trip, Sager would research his first piece for Rolling Stone, in Thailand, about expat Vietnam veterans. Upon his return, in early 1984, Sager resigned from the Post to pursue a career in magazines.
Magazines and film
For the next several years, Sager wrote for Washingtonian and Regardie's magazines in Washington. While at Regardie's he wrote a monthly reported column called "Washington Beat." In 1987 he became a contributing editor of Rolling Stone; in 1993 he authored a regular column for Rolling Stone called "Living in the USA." In late 1993 Sager became a writer-at-large for GQ. He published his first piece in Esquire in 1991 and became a writer-at-large in 1997. He has also written for Vibe, Spy, Interview, The California Sunday Magazine, Smithsonian, and Playboy.
More than a dozen of his articles have been optioned for or have inspired Hollywood feature films, including Boogie Nights, starring Mark Wahlberg, Wonderland, starring Val Kilmer, and Veronica Guerin, starring Cate Blanchett. Betrayed by Love, starring Patricia Arquette and Mare Winningham, premiered as a television movie. In 2012, The Marinovich Project, a documentary based on Sager's Esquire article and featuring Sager as a narrator, aired on ESPN.
Over the years, Sager has practiced a form of journalism that some have called "literary anthropology." For his stories, he has lived with a crack gang in Los Angeles; a 625-pound man in El Monte, California; teenage pit bull fighters in the Philadelphia barrio; Palestinians in the Gaza Strip; heroin addicts on the Lower East Side; Aryan Nations troopers in Idaho; U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton; Tupperware saleswomen in suburban Maryland; high school boys in Orange County. Since the late nineties, when he moved to California, he has also done dozens of celebrity profiles, including Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Kirk Douglas, Julia Child, Ray Charles, Faye Dunaway, Evel Knievel, Roseanne Barr, Alan Arkin, and Rod Steiger. He has been credited with being the pioneer of Esquire's well known feature, "What I've Learned."
Academia and The Sager Group
Sager has read and lectured at many American schools of journalism, including Columbia University, New York University, Northwestern University, the University of Missouri, Marquette University, and in other forums, ranging from the Monarch School for Homeless Children to the Yale Law School. His work is included in three textbooks in use in college classrooms. For four years he led a writing workshop at the University of California, Irvine, where he was a Pereira Visiting Writer. Currently he is a faculty mentor with Goucher College's MFA/Creative Nonfiction program. He lives in San Diego, California. His son is Miles Jacob Sager.
In 2011 Sager founded The Sager Group to publish independent books, and has published many works including Next Wave: America's New Generation of Literary Journalists and The Stories We Tell: Classic Tales by America's Greatest Woman Journalists which was recognized by Constance Hale as one of the best books on narrative journalism. In 2018, The Sager Group expanded into multimedia content including documentary, feature and web-based films. TSG Films is headed by Miles Sager. In December 2020, two novels published by The Sager Group were named to Kirkus Reviews list of 100 Best Indie Books.
- Scary Monsters and Super Freaks: Stories of Sex, Drugs, Rock ’n’ Roll, and Murder, (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2004, ISBN 1-56025-563-3)
- Revenge of the Donut Boys: True Stories of Lust, Fame, Survival and Multiple Personality, (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2007, ISBN 1-56858-350-8)
- Revenge of the Donut Boys, Second Edition: True Stories of Lust, Fame, Survival and Multiple Personality, (San Diego, CA: The Sager Group LLC, 2018, ISBN 978-0-9980793-8-7)
- Deviant Behavior: A Novel, (New York: Grove/Atlantic/Black Cat, 2008, ISBN 0-8021-7048-X)
- Wounded Warriors: Those for Whom the War Never Ends, (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-306-81735-9)
- Tattoos & Tequila: To Hell and Back with One of Rock's Most Notorious Frontmen, with Vince Neil (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010, ISBN 978-0-446-54804-5)
- The Someone You're Not: True Stories of Sports, Celebrity, Politics & Pornography, (San Diego, CA: The Sager Group,2012, ISBN 978-0-9881785-0-2)
- Next Wave: America's New Generation of Great Literary Journalists, edited by Walt Harrington and Mike Sager, (San Diego, CA: The Sager Group,2012, ISBN 978-0-9881785-1-9)
- High Tolerance: A Novel of Sex, Race, Celebrity, Murder . . . and Marijuana, (San Diego, CA: The Sager Group, 2013, ISBN 978-0-9881785-6-4)
- "The United States Marines". What I've Learned. Warriors. Esquire. 159 (1): 80. January 2013.
- The Devil and John Holmes-25th Anniversary Author's Edition: And Other True Stories of Drugs, Porn and Murder, (San Diego, CA: The Sager Group, 2014, ISBN 978-0-9862679-0-1)
- Stoned Again: The High Times and Strange Life of a Drugs Correspondent, (New York: Byliner Selects, 2015, ISBN 978-1-5080128-1-8)
- The Lonely Hedonist: True Stories of Sex, Drugs, Dinosaurs and Peter Dinklage, (San Diego, CA: The Sager Group, 2017,ISBN 978-0-9980793-5-6)
- VetVille: True Stories of the US Marines, (San Diego, CA: The Sager Group, 2019,ISBN 978-1-950154-07-4)
- Shaman: The Mysterious Life and Impeccable Death of Carlos Castaneda,(San Diego, CA: The Sager Group, 2020,ISBN 978-1-950154-19-7)
- Hunting Marlon Brando: A True Story,(San Diego, CA: The Sager Group, 2021,ISBN 978-1-950154-11-1)
- Walt Harrington, Dean, College of Media, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- "Bestsellers". Los Angeles Times. 29 February 2004.
- "The Devil and a Comm Week speaker".
- "Todd Marinovich: The Man Who Never Was". 23 April 2010.
- "Wounded Warriors: Those for Whom the War Never Ends - Military Writers Society of America". 7 January 2015. Archived from the original on 7 January 2015.
- "American Author's Association".
- "Hardcover Nonfiction Books - Best Sellers - October 10, 2010 - The New York Times".
- "Homepage - The Emory Wheel". The Emory Wheel.
- Corey Levitan (19 February 2019). "ROUGH WRITER: Meet 'Esquire' reporter and La Jollan Mike Sager". lajollalight.com.
- "Walt Harrington".
- "Mike Sager's New Essay Collection, "Wounded Warriors," Out Now". 9 October 2008.
- "Entertainment Today: Showbiz News".
- Carlson, Peter (11 January 2008). "Words of wisdom (and malarkey) from the famous". Los Angeles Times.
- "Literary Orange". 6 April 2009.
- "Journalism Under Fire: Discussion Series to Focus on News, Gender, Censorship and Photojournalism Issues - Missouri School of Journalism". 25 May 2006.
- "marquettejournal.org - This website is for sale! - marquettejournal Resources and Information". marquettejournal.org. Cite uses generic title (help)
- "Events - UCI Department of Literary Journalism". www.humanities.uci.edu.
- Constance Hale. "Best of narrative journalism (books)".