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.

Cover steroid nation  
WINNER: 2022 SPJ Golden Eyeshade Award (Best Magazine Writing)

WINNER: 2022 SPJ Golden Eyeshade Award (Best Magazine Writing)

I'm thrilled to make my debut in Smithsonian Magazine with this strange but true thriller about the swashbuckling 18th Century naturalist Andre Michaux. A pioneer of the New World, Michaux made hundreds of discoveries on his travels through the Appalachian Mountains...

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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The Botanist Is A Plant Podcast

Looking for a good 18th Century spy story? The wonderful folks at BYU’s Constant Wonder podcast (@cw_byu) gave me a half-hour to weave together the story of the legendary French naturalist Andre Michaux, who would have beaten Lewis & Clark to the Pacific if not for some amazing political intrigue involving Thomas Jefferson and a who’s who of quarrelsome Founding Fathers.

The podcast is adapted from my story in the new issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

Listen to “The botanist is a plant” here.

News & Updates
The Botanist Is A Plant Podcast

Looking for a good 18th Century spy story? This podcast is based on my story in the July/August issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

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?