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John Byrne Cooke


John Byrne Cooke 2011

John Byrne Cooke was the author of five books, most recently On the Road With Janis Joplin (Berkley Books, 2014). Cooke was Joplin's road manager from late 1967 until her untimely death in 1970. He was there when Janis made the difficult decision to leave Big Brother and the Holding Company, the band that propelled her to stardom, and form a new band. He was with Janis and the Kozmic Blues Band on her only European tour in the spring of 1969, when they performed at Woodstock in August, and when Janis and Full Tilt Boogie traveled across Canada on the Festival Express the next summer.

Dave Getz, Big Brother's drummer, wrote of On the Road With Janis Joplin, "Most most most important you get Janis right and I can feel her and she is alive when I read your book. It is truly an impressive, masterful and heartfelt piece of work."

Cooke's first novel, The Snowblind Moon (1985), won a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America and was a featured alternate selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. The Washington Post Book World said of his second novel, South of the Border (1989), "Like Michener, Cooke is a historian in novelist's clothing, but he is not as long-winded and his sentences are more graceful."

Publisher's Weekly said of Cooke's first nonfiction work, Reporting the War: Freedom of the Press from the American Revolution to the War on Terrorism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), "[Cooke] gives an excellent, incisive commentary on how freedom of the press in the U.S., from the time of the 13 colonies on, has played out in times of war. . . . A timely study, Cooke's history presents the fifth estate in all its conflicted glory."

Cooke was writer and creator of the documentary series "Outlaws and Lawmen," which premiered on the Discovery Channel in 1996. The Los Angeles Times called the series "grand, authoritative story telling, the rare documentary that preserves historical integrity while playing on the screen almost like an adventure film, thanks largely to a script by John Byrne Cooke."

He has written book reviews for the New York Times, Washington Post Book World, and the Los Angeles Times. He was a member of the faculty of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference since its inception in 1992.

His speaking credits include the Southwest Writers Workshop, Colorado Library Association, Western Writers of America, Jackson Hole Writers Conference, Santa Fe Writers Conference, Western History Association, Austin Writers League, the Greater Dallas Writers Association / UTD Conference, and Mountains and Plains Booksellers, who described Cooke as "witty and wonderful-not to be missed!"