Which RPCV is the most successful Peace Corps writer?

Now that, I thought, would get everyone’s attention.

What Peace Corps writer in the 54 years of the agency  has made the most money from his or her books, earned the most awards, sold the most books, had the most books on the New York Times Best Seller List, and had their book(s) made into movies?

You pick your writer from this list. All winners will  win a special ‘Peace Corps’ prize (from me).

Here are the candidates. Post your choice in the Comment Section of the blog and tell us why you think so….yes, you can google to get facts and figures. If I have missed any writer you think should be on this list, please let me know. jcoyneone@gmail.com

The list.

T. D. Allman (Nepal 1966-68)
Lauri Anderson (Nigeria 1963-65)
Ron Arias (Peru 1963-64)
Jim Averbeck (Cameroon 1990-94
Bill Barich (Nigeria 1964-66)
Donald Beil (Somalia 1964-66)
Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996)
Mary Blocksma (Nigeria 1965-67)
Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991-93)
Craig Carozzi (Colombia 1978-80)
Harlan Coben (PC/W 1982-84)
Suzy McKee Charnas (Nigeria 1961-63)
Christopher Conlon (Botswana 1988-90)
Kathleen Coskran (Ethiopia 1965-67)
Paul Cowan (Ecuador 1966-67)
John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962-64)
Timothy Crouse (Morocco 1968-69)
Mark Dintenfass (Ethiopia 1964-66)
Eileen Drew (Zaire 1979-81)
Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast 2000-02, Madagascar 2002-03)
John Michael Flynn (Moldova 1993-95)
Kinky Friedman (Borneo 1967-69)
Martin R. Ganzglass (Somalia 1966-68)
Clifford Garstang (Korea 1976-77)
John Givens (Korea 1967-69)
Kent Haruf (Turkey 1965-67)
Tom Hebert (Nigeria 1962-64)
Tom Heidlebaugh (Kenya 1965-68)
Peter Hessler (China 1996-98)
Kris Holloway (Mali 1989-91)
Chris Honore’ ( Colombia 1967-69)
Phyllis Greenberg Houseman (Ecuador 1962-64)
Mark Jacobs (Paraguay 1978-80)
P.F. Kluge (Micronesia 1967-69)
Jonathan Kwitny (Nigeria 1964-66)
Charles R. Larson (Nigeria 1962-64)
Eric Lax (Micronesia 1966-68)
Laurence Leamer (Nepal 1965-67)
Peter Lefcourt (Togo 1962-64)
Leonard Levitt (Tanzania 1963-65)
Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77)
Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64)
Karl Luntta (Botswana 1977-80)
Eve MacMaster (Turkey 1968-70)
Phillip Margolin (Liberia 1965-67)
Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02)
Stanley Meisler (PC/W Staff 1964-67)

Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979-80)
Mike Meyer (China 1995-97)
Marnie Mueller (Ecuador 1963-65)
Edward Mycue (Ghana 1961)
Lenore Myka (Romania 1994-96)
Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978-79)
Joanne Omang (Turkey 1964-66)
Mary Le Duc O’Neill (Ghana & Costa Rica 1970-74)
George Packer (Togo 1982-84)
Ann Panning (Philippines 1988-90)
Reilly Ridgell (Micronesia 1971-73)
Norm Rush (Botswana 1978-83)
Nancy Scheper-Hughes (Brazil 1964-66)
Peter Schwab (Liberia 1962-64)
Bob Shacochis (Eastern Caribbean 1975-76)
Charlie Smith (Micronesia 1968-70)
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965-67)
Tom Spanbauer (Kenya 1969-71)
Eleanor Stanford (Cape Verde 1998-2000)
Mildred D. Taylor (Ethiopia 1965-67)
Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65)
Maria Thomas (Ethiopia 1971-73)
Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador 1965-67)
Mike Tidwell (Zaire 1985-87)
Ellen Urbani (Guatemala 1991-93)
Michael Varga (Chad 1977–79
Mark Wentling (Honduras 1967-69)
Susi Wyss (Central African Republic 1990-92)
Richard Wiley (Korea 1967-69)
Simone Zelitch (Hungary 1991-93)


Leave a comment
  • First, what an incredible array of talent! Where could we see all those books lined up on a shelf? No place; certainly such a display can not be found in Peace Corps headquarters.

    Lawrence F. Lihosit RPCV Honduras, certainly should be included. Lorenzo is a prolific writer and has written the only Peace Corps chronology, available. It is a terrific reference.

    I would vote for Paul Theroux, only because he started publishing long before Amazon made every book available for cents. Also, he once signed a tattered paperback copy of Mosquito Coast for me at a books store. I was so dumb, I didn’t realize that the point of the public appearance was to BUY a hard copy of his book. Nonetheless, he was excitedly gracious.

  • How about a a little equal time for the least successful RPCV authors. Surely, I can’t be the only one. Fewest books sold, no awards, virtually no money earned, not within light years (which is actually a measure of time, not distance, but you get the point), of the New York Times Best Seller List – although ranked about two million on Amazon, – never made into a movie, TV program or power point presentation, and the most obscure.

  • Ophelia Gona, Robert Klein, Arnold Zeitlin COME TO MY MIND because the are from GHANA ONE. i WONDER who i missed. Ed

  • It is a great honor to find myself on such an august list. I am afraid, however, that my chances of winning are bright only if you hand out a booby prize. I agree with several others that Paul Theroux is the obvious standout. I suspect that he has earned far more from his travel adventures than his fiction, but his novels rank among the most distinguished written by any American author in the last 50 years.

  • I’ve thought this over, and given the criteria, the prize has to go to the great and prolific, Paul Theroux. But I’d still like to vote for Peter Hessler, and perhaps if you count his translations sold in China, he may surpass Paul in total sales. Marnie

  • I would vote for adding fiction writer Barry Kitterman and poets Sandra Meek and Susan Rich to the list (although the poets will most certainly be out of the running on the money front).

  • Kent Haruf for his insightful writing about the people inhabiting a small American town and his crisp, concise style. Perhaps we could also divide the award into two categories- living and deceased authors.

    I also agree with Gerald Karney’s suggestion of giving equal time to the least successful PC writer. Another measure of meriting this award would be most rejection letters from agents and publishers.

  • Marty – Kent was in the same Peace Corps group, but with 200 people it was impossible to know every one well. We had little more than a passing acquaintance. He was also very quiet, like his novels, but obviously had a great deal to say.

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