is considered one of our most innovative prose writers
who has brought a variety of experiences to his work. He is a
distinguished novelist and founder of the Beckham Publications Group.
He has been a public relations writer for the Chase Manhattan Bank
and AT&T, and a tenured English professor at Brown and Hampton Universities.
When Beckham published his first novel, My Main Mother (Walker) in 1969,
he had just graduated from Brown University and was writing for the public
relations office of Chase Manhattan. President David Rockefeller dubbed him
Chase's "first bona fide novelist," and the New York Times Book Review
hailed the work as a forerunner of "remarkable things to come."
His second novel, Runner Mack (Morrow, 1972) was selected by the
New York Times as one of the year's most noteworthy books.
"Beckham is a masterful writer, and his novel is an emblem of contemporary
black frustration," wrote the Library Journal reviewer. "This story
of an aspiring black baseball player is skillfully written and richly
imaginative," declared The New York Times Book Review.
He is also the author of Double Dunk (Holloway House, 1981), the
innovative autobiography of Manhattan schoolyard basketball legend Earl
(the Goat) Manigault. The HBO biopic, Rebound starring Eric Lasalle
and James Earl Jones is based on the Goat's life. Employing novelistic
touches of scene setting and dialogue, Beckham sustains the second
person point of view throughout the work--about which the Newark Star Ledger
said: "Every high school and perhaps junior high school student should read."
Beckham's first novel in two decades, Will You Be Mine? takes on
an old theme with a new approach. It's the distinguished novelist's stab
at presenting a different kind of love story. "I wanted a black male narrator
who is tender and passionate," says Beckham. "At the same time," he adds,
"my main character encounters the usual absurdities that come with being
a black male in twentieth century America."
His narrator is a 50-year-old African-American whose third wife, Chinita-twenty
years younger--has just died after a painful bout with "the disease that keeps
growing." Caught in Washington, DC traffic and listening to talk radio as
he drives toward his beach house, the narrator has the perfect audience--a
sympathetic Teddy bear.
Beckham taught at Brown University for 17 years and directed the graduate
writing program before going to Hampton University in 1987. With a Xerox
Foundation grant, Beckham directed the country's first summer high school
writer's workshop for black students at Hampton. While at Brown, he edited
the first of five editions of the Black Student's Guide to Colleges
(Dutton, 1982)--also the first of its kind. His other guides include the
Black Student's Guide to Scholarships and the College Selection Workbook.
A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Beckham is on
the board of the Author's League Fund and the George Polk Awards, and has
served on the boards of PEN American Center and the Author's Guild. He was
one of the judges of the 2005 Hurston Wright Foundation Award for the best
novel by an African American. He has published prose in Esquire,
Black Enterprise, Crisis, the New York Times,
Educational Record, the Washington Post, American Visions,
Beckham is married to the former Monica Scott, an attorney in Washington, DC.