Phillip Finch, a prolific Kansas author whose work ranged from fast-paced thrillers to a riveting nonfiction account of acave diving triumph and tragedy, died Tuesday at the home of his sister in Grand Junction, Colo., following an illness of a few months. He was 63.
He was born July 27, 1948, in Washington, D.C.
Finch began his career as a sports writer for The Washington Daily News. One of his memorable interviews, which he recounted in 2008 for a reporting class at Emporia State University, was with Muhammad Ali. Finch’s editor had told him to get an exclusive. The world heavyweight boxing champion took a liking to the young reporter and gave Finch an impromptu boxing lesson, which Finch described for readers.
Finch was a sports writer for the San Francisco Examiner from 1970 until 1975, when his first novel, “Haulin’,” was published by Doubleday. He was represented by the William Morris literary agency and would write fourteen other novels in his career, including the thrillers “Sugarland” and “Paradise Junction,” both of which won praise from critics.“Texas Dawn,” published in 1981, was selected as a Readers Digest Condensed Book.
His most recent thriller was “Devil’s Keep,” published by Pocket Books in 2010.
In addition to his journalism and fiction, Finch was also an author of nonfiction books. These include “Fatal Flaw,” in which he questioned the conviction of Tommy Ziegler for a triple homicide in Winter Park, Florida. His latest nonfiction book was 2008’s“Diving Into Darkness,” about a South African cave diving tragedy that took the life of Australian David Shaw. For that book, Finch traveled to South Africa and dove, with Shaw’s scuba equipment, the cave where Shaw had previously set acave diving depth record – and where Shaw died trying to recover the body of another diver.
Finch moved to Emporia from Howard, in Elk County, and lived with his family in the historic Keebler-Stone House at 831 Constitution. For several of the past few years, he was a faculty member of the Tallgrass Writing Workshop, held one weekend each summer at ESU.
He was preceded in death by his father, Francis Finch.
He is survived by his ex-wife, Dahlia; his son, Daniel, and his daughter, Angela, both of the home; sisters Yvonne Finch, of Grand Junction, Madeline Finch, Sacramento, Calif., and Denise Finch, of Auburn, Calif.; a brother, Tom Finch, of Wichita; and his mother, Madeline Finch, of Grand Junction.
A private memorial service is planned. The family suggests memorial contributions to Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado, www.hospicewco.com.