Ronald J. Watkins is the author of more than 30 books. He is co-author of the
Summit Murder Series
, beginning with MURDER ON EVEREST
. Before that his most recent book was
UNKNOWN SEAS: How Vasco da Gama Opened the East
, published in the United Kingdom by John Murray Publisher in late 2003.
In 2004, he was nominated for The Mountbatten Maritime Prize in the United Kingdom. UNKNOWN SEAS was named 2005 Book of
the Year by the Portuguese Tribune. In 2006, the book was released in Portuguese in Brazil and in Czech in the
The author holds a BA in history and an MS in justice studies. Following his university studies, he first worked as
a probation officer and presentencing investigator in the Superior Court. He is a former chief administrative law
judge and was the assistant director of the Arizona Department of Insurance where he served as the state of Arizona's
chief insurance fraud investigator.
His first book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors
, was the well received account of the impeachment of Arizona's
governor, Evan Mecham. Written just one year after events and based on hundreds of interviews with participants,
it remains the definitive account of the last impeachment of an American governor.
His work as a probation officer influenced his early books. In only one capital case did he recommend execution.
This led to his second book, Evil Intentions
, a gripping account of murder. It was followed a few years
later by Against Her Will
, the story of the murder of Kelly Tinyes in Valley Stream, Long Island, New York.
The author played an instrumental role in establishing American caselaw to protect the rights of writers under the
First Amendment. His struggle to protect his sources as he wrote Birthright
, the saga of the Shoen family
which founded and owned U-Haul International and of the then unsolved murder of Eva Shoen, received national media
attention including an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, an appearance on NBC's PrimeTime! and was the subject
of an episode of Under Scrutiny with Jane Wallace. Radio, television and newspapers across the country depicted
and praised his steadfast refusal to name names.
In 1993, the United States Court of Appeals [Ninth Circuit] in Shoen v. Shoen, 5 Frd 1289 [9th Cir. 1993] issued a
landmark decision on his behalf when the court held for the first time in United State's history that writers of
non-fiction books have the same rights under the U.S. Constitution as newspaper reporters and can protect both
confidential and non-confidential sources. When he refused to comply with the demands of a second subpoena in 1994
he was again found in contempt of court by a another Federal judge for refusing to disclose sources and this time
was ordered imprisoned until he complied. A Federal arrest warrant was issued and U.S. Marshals searched his home
looking for him. Twenty minutes prior to surrendering, and in a highly unusual ruling, the Ninth Circuit reversed
itself and granted a stay. In Shoen v. Shoen, 48F 3d 412 [9th Cir.1995] the court subsequently ruled in the author's
favor, adopting the four point balancing test used in most other Circuits.
These two rulings have been used many times since to spare writers from jail when extending confidentiality to
sources and have entered the lexicon of the handful of court cases which safeguard the First Amendment. For his
conduct the author was nominated for the 1993 PEN American Newman's Own First Amendment Award.
In addition to his own works, the author has served as ghost writer, collaborator or editor for more than a dozen
other books. He is founder and principal writer
for Watkins & Associates
, perhaps the leading ghost writing
service in America.
He has lived in Portugal, traveled in Spain, France, Italy, Mexico, Central America, Brazil, Hong Kong, Vietnam,
Thailand and India in the course of his work. He makes his home in Phoenix, Arizona.
PUBLIC AND MEDIA APPEARANCES
- Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege and Justice
- PrimeTime! with Tom Brokow and Katie Couric
- Under Scrutiny with Jane Wallace
- Geraldo with Geraldo Rivera
- American Forum [national radio]
The author has addressed many groups on his work and in particular on the nature of the First Amendment and the
measures necessary in society to protect it. He is available as a speaker on several subjects.