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Al Martinez in the Korean War: A Future Columnist Hones His Craft

July 8 @ 5:00 pm PDT

Sponsored by The Book Club of California

For more than twenty years, the Los Angeles Times columnist Al Martinez (1929-2015) delighted, and enriched the lives of, thousands of readers across southern California. An Oakland native, he attended San Francisco State College. Later, he was a reporter for the Richmond Independent and the Oakland Tribune before being lured to Los Angeles to write for the Times. By the time he retired in 2009, he had earned an extensive array of awards and honors, including three shared Pulitzers and the National Headliner Award for the best column in the U.S.

Before becoming a professional journalist, Martinez served in the Korean War at the age of 21 with the U.S. Marines, from 1951-1952, first on the battle front and then as a war correspondent. He dispatched letters almost daily to his young bride Joanne.

Now a volume of Al Martinez’ Korean War letters, I Promise You I’ll Be Home, has been published by McFarland and Co. Written from the unique perspective of an obviously gifted professional writer at the beginning of his career, his letters home capture his experiences eloquently and with depth of understanding as they express the dangers, hardships, fear, friendships, and even humor of life at the front. His vivid, often humorous pen-and-ink drawings portray scenes from the front lines.

The letters are all housed in the archive of his papers at The Huntington Library. They form not only an important record for the history of the largely ignored Korean War, but also a crackling good narrative of one Marine’s time at the battle front and as a combat correspondent. Even as a young writer, he was among the very best in storytelling and in the elegance of his prose.

A virtual presentation by Sara S. Hodson, author and retired curator of literary collections for The Huntington Library

Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom


July 8
5:00 pm PDT