Author Makesup for Lost Time

By Paglia, Ron | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 27, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Author Makesup for Lost Time


Paglia, Ron, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


William R. Black had early designs on becoming a writer but his career in education put those plans on hold.

His latest work, "Dispatches From The World," a biography of war correspondent Percival Phillips, is further proof that he continues to make up for lost time.

Black also has authored several books including four on transportation analysis and planning. The most recent of these is "Sustainable Transportation" with Guilford Press in 2010. He also has written a spy novel that has an environmental theme and a narrative history of a legal case in the Monongahela Valley in the 1800s involving counterfeiting. The last two are available from Amazon as e-books.

"When I started college, I had a strong desire to be a writer," said Black, a 1960 graduate of Brownsville High School, when it was still on High Street. "That desire was pushed to the background as I became a transportation researcher and professor. Railroads became an interest of more than a decade of my life, and my writing interests were sidetracked except for papers in academic journals, two books on railroad policy and a major textbook on transportation."

Work on environmental issues led to one of Black's first textbooks on sustainable transportation and his first novel, which couples the environmental background with a long-term interest in espionage of the Cold War era.

"I slowly moved into the nonfiction area with the history of some court cases related to a counterfeiting incident from the 1860s in the United States," he said. "These efforts inspired me and eventually led to the biography of Percival Phillips."

Black, the son of the late Thomas D. Black and Dorothy Hileman Black of Brownsville, developed a natural interest in railroads. His father and paternal grandfather and great grandfather were railroad workers in the area.

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