J.R. Moehringer has been in the news lately, as his new book, Spare, details the life of Prince Harry and has become a best-seller around the world. What most people don't know is that he also wrote Shoe Dog for Phil Knight and Open for Andre Agassi. While Moehringer could have certainly taken credit for these books, he publicly acknowledged that he didn't want his name on the cover of any of them.
Who is J.R. Moehringer?
Born on August 7, 1964, in New York City, Moehringer began his career in journalism, working for various newspapers including The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. His exceptional storytelling skills and ability to delve into the human experience soon garnered him recognition and acclaim. In 2000, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his piece, Crossing Over, which detailed the complication of a ferry opening up in a small Alabama town.
Moehringer's breakthrough came with the publication of his memoir, The Tender Bar, in 2005. The memoir, which tells the story of his tumultuous childhood and his relationship with a local Long Island bar and its patrons, received widespread critical acclaim and became a New York Times bestseller. Moehringer's honest and introspective writing, combined with his poignant exploration of themes such as family, identity, and resilience, resonated deeply with readers.
In 2021, George Clooney and Ben Affleck brought the story to life in movie form, which you can check out on Amazon. Affleck played Moehringer's Uncle Charlie, an affable character that served as a steady influence for a boy with an absent father.
Ironically, it wasn't the first movie for Moehringer, who had an article he wrote for the LA Times adapted into a script in 2007. The article was about a homeless man named Bob Satterfield, and the movie, Resurrecting the Champ, starred Josh Hartnett, Samuel L. Jackson, and Alan Alda.
Open, the collaboration with Andre Agassi, was published in 2009.
Moehringer wrote Sutton in 2012, a novel about banker robber Willie Sutton. Sutton became arguably the greatest banker robber in American history in the early 1900's: a chance to escape the Brooklyn slums he grew up in. He talks about the book in the video below.
The following year, Moehringer released The Best American Sports Writing, a collection of essays about amazing athletes.
As Andre Agassi thought about writing a book, he was looking for someone who could tell a raw and authentic story but also had the journalistic background to do the research. Moehringer was the perfect fit. After Agassi read The Tender Bar, he knew he had his guy.
Being a ghost writer isn't easy. To get at the deep emotions that drive people, the mistakes that they've made, and the why behind their life stories requires incredible skill. Moehringer's experience as a journalist allowed him to conduct thorough research, interview key individuals, and extract insights that would add richness and authenticity to Agassi's biography. He also acknowledged spending more than 250 hours with Agassi himself, which required Moehringer to move to Las Vegas. These sessions often resembled those seen in a therapist's office. Some may laugh at this and think, "wow, that must have been brutal!" Others recognize that Moehringer needed every minute of those 250 hours to get deep into Agassi's past and psyche.
Agassi is said to have sold the book rights to Random House for $5 million, implying that 500,000 copies of the book needed to be sold to break even. Based on data from Nielsen Bookscan, the book sold 103,000 copies in its first three months in print.
Word on the street is that Moehringer was paid $1 million to write Spare. It takes a great writer to write a great book; it taken a truly special one to embody someone else so that at no point does a reader think that the subject isn't the one telling the story.
If you've never read one of Moehringer's books, I'd highly recommend that you check one out. In every industry, there are a few elite players. When Leonardo DiCaprio releases a new film, I see it. In the same vein, Moehringer is in that class as a writer. I'm excited to see what he'll do next.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
Check out healthy energy drinks from Celsius: