Bill McGrane knows a good story when he sees one.
After all, he’s spent the last five decades of his professional life telling them—first as a reporter for newspapers such as the Minneapolis Tribune, and later as a public relations writer for the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.
“I’ve been writing all my life,” McGrane, 77, says.
So it was no surprise when the Glencoe writer tackled the rags-to-riches life story of Vikings star turned sitting Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page as his latest literary fodder.
But McGrane, author of “All Rise: The Remarkable Journey of Alan Page,” published by Triumph Books in October, was originally assigned an entirely different subject.
Three years ago, Triumph’s publisher, Mitch Rogatz, approached him “out of the blue,” as McGrane remembers, and wanted him to write about another former Viking, Fran Tarkenton. McGrane declined, as books about the former star had already surfaced.
After brainstorming, he made Rogatz a counter offer: a biography of Page, whom McGrane had befriended when he worked in the Vikings’ front office in 1967. Rogatz agreed, but now McGrane had to convince Page.
“It took a fair amount of pushing on my part and on his wife’s part,” says McGrane of Page’s reluctance to be written about. “He’s a very private person.”
Eventually, McGrane cajoled Page into cooperating by pitching him the book as not only as a biography but also as a tribute to other “All-Risers,” ordinary people who have made a difference in the world.
Despite its uncertain beginnings, the book eventually drew the attention of former President Bill Clinton, a longtime friend of the Pages’, who penned its foreword.
For McGrane the book is an accomplishment, especially given his age, he says.
“I’m 77, so being published at that age in your life isn’t a bad deal,” McGrane says.
McGrane grew up as the son of the legendary Des Moines Register sports writer Bert McGrane. The younger McGrane followed in his father’s footsteps for a while, but was lured away from newspapers to work as a public-relations director in the NFL, first for the Vikings and later for the Chicago Bears. He’s contributed to five NFL-related books.
In 1998, McGrane was introduced to Roberta Rubin, owner of The Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka. Their shared affection for famous scribe Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, soon blossomed into a romantic relationship and they live together in Winnetka.
When he’s not writing, McGrane says that he’s usually hanging out at a local coffee shop or golfing.
“I’ve got a pretty good deal going here,” he says.
Images courtesy of Triumph Books.