The Writing Life: Hard To Believe That Johnny Apple Has Been Gone A Decade

Hard to believe that soon it will be a decade since Johnny Apple of The New York Times died of complications from thoracic cancer.

The Times has always had great writers - like A. M. Rosenthal, Joseph Lelyveld, Maureen Dowd, Max Frankel, Gail Collins, Bob Herbert, among others.

But Raymond Walter Apple Jr. (November 20, 1934 - October 4, 2006), known to all as "Johnny," and bylined as R.W. Apple Jr., was an authentic larger-than-life figure. A massive man with a voracious appetite for food and politics and gossip and fine wines, there was no topic he couldn't tackle with acuity and knowledge on deadline.

Critics said he had very high self-regard, perhaps justifiably so. Johnny reported from some 120 countries. His last article for the paper while he was still alive was on Singapore cuisine, published on September 30, 2006.

What many journalists didn't realize was that Johnny poured a lot of study and research into his work. In that sense, one could be forgiven if one termed him a scholar-scribe.

The last New York Times article he wrote, entitled "The Global Gourmet," was published posthumously on October 5, 2006. The Times' travel section had planned to run that valedictory piece several weeks later but it was brought forward due to his death. Johnny was a difficult and temperamental man to deal with, as numerous editors and colleagues will attest.

But what a writer! Hard to imagine that we will see such brilliance and productivity any time soon. Unless, of course, you believe in instant reincarnation. Come back, Johnny, you'd have a roaring time with The Donald and The Hillary!