About Shaun

Hi, and welcome to my site. I’m an author, magazine writer and investigative journalist. Showtime just turned my latest book, The Murder of Sonny Liston, into a feature documentary that you can see on demand.

My instincts always lead me to crime and politics, though I somehow managed to spend twenty years in the investigations unit at ESPN. Four books have also allowed me to join the NASCAR tour for a season; delve into the history of Vince McMahon for a New York Times best-selling unauthorized biography; chronicle America’s history with steroids; and turn into a cold case cop to investigate the decades-old death of Sonny Liston, the infamous heavyweight champion of the word.

Shaun Assael | Photo credit: Amy K. Nelson Media Downloads

I’ve been lucky to win numerous awards for my magazine work, including from the National Association of Black Journalists (for science writing), the Associated Press Sports Editors (for investigative reporting), and the New York Press Club.

These days, I’m freelance magazine writing and working on my next book project. If you stop by my historic home in Wilmington, North Carolina, you’ll probably see with me with a laptop on the porch swing. The only moss that grows around here is the Spanish type hanging in our front yard.

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The Botanist Is A Plant!

The Botanist Is A Plant!

It's great when you do something for the first time. And I'm thrilled to make my first appearance in Smithsonian Magazine with this strange but true yarn from the 18th Century. It arose out of a novel I wrote about Thomas Jefferson — one that may or may not see the...

Cranky Yankee Blogger
Dept. of (my) History

Dept. of (my) History

In 1982, I wrote a story about AIDS that mentioned 958 cases had been reported worldwide. Forty years on, the total is 75 million. I’m reposting the piece as a document of what it was like to be in NYC at the dawn of the crisis.

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New: Why Can’t We All Be Friends?

The Mother Jones Podcast

What the Hell Is “Truth and Reconciliation,” Anyway‪?‬

House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin delivered a speech during Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in which he made a direct appeal to reality: “Democracy needs a ground to stand upon,” he said. “And that ground is the truth.”

There’s a lot of demand for reckoning in America right now. Cities around the country are debating and in some cases instituting some forms of reparations for Black residents. Last June, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to establish a “United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation,” which has gained 169 co-sponsors. In December, even anchor Chuck Todd asked his guests on “Meet the Press” about the political prospects for a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The calls for a rigorous public accounting of Trump-era misdeeds reached a crescendo in the aftermath of the violent attack on the Capitol in January: the impeachment proceedings against the former president became, all of a sudden, the de facto court for establishing the reality of the 2020 election results, even as Republican lawmakers voted to acquit.

It raised the fundamental question: How do we establish the truth, amid a war on truth itself?

On today’s episode of the Mother Jones Podcast, journalists Shaun Assael and Peter Keating share their deep reporting into the history of the “truth and reconciliation” movement, here and abroad, and what we can learn from its promises and pitfalls—presenting a realistic view of their effectiveness as building blocks for reality, rather than magic bullets. “There can be no reconciliation before justice,” Keating says.

News & Updates
A Bull Story

Back in the day, Penthouse sent me to Las Vegas to interview Bodacious, the meanest rodeo bull who ever lived. I found him on display in a Home Depot parking lot. What could go wrong?