Buck Lake, Emigrant Wilderness, Sierra Nevada

I'm an author, journalist and historian of San Francisco. My most recent book is Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco. My history column (and soon to be podcast), "Portals of the Past," appears every other Saturday in the San Francisco Chronicle. I am available as a speaker and give unique monthly San Francisco walking tours. 



I was born in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley and have lived in San Francisco since 1971. I received my BA and MA in English literature from UC Berkeley, where I won the Mark Schorer Citation.  I was a co-founder and longtime executive editor of the groundbreaking web site Salon.com, where I reported from the Middle East, covered three Olympics, and wrote about politics, pop culture, literature, art, music and sports. Until March 2018 I was the executive editor of San Francisco Magazine, where I wrote award-winning features about the tech-driven transformation of San Francisco, homelessness, the Tenderloin, the injection drug crisis, the waterfront, the new Museum of Modern Art, and legalized marijuana, among other subjects.

My first book, Shadow Knight: The Secret War Against Hitler, was a critically-acclaimed narrative history of Britain's top-secret Special Operations Executive. My second book, Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, was awarded the 2013 Northern California Book Award in creative nonfiction and has sold more than 50,000 copies. My local history column, "Portals of the Past," runs every other Saturday in the San Francisco Chronicle and will soon be a podcast. My work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, ArtForum, Sports Illustrated, Mother Jones, and many other publications and has been widely anthologized, including in The Best African-American Essays 2010, The New Harvard Literary History of the United States, and the Longman Reader. I have been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Ron Ross Founder's Award by the San Francisco History Association and the Presidio Historical Association Award, and have appeared as an expert on-camera source in numerous documentaries, including Jim Yager's The People's Palace (on City Hall) and Michael House's I Remember Herb Caen. I live on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. 

Photography by Al Castino

Photography by Al Castino