In 1999, Blehm became the first journalist to accompany and keep pace with an elite Army Ranger unit on a training mission. His access into the Special Operations community set an important milestone for American war journalism two years before reporters began to gain widespread "embedded" status with the U.S. military in the War Against Terror.
Blehm has earned a reputation for both his accuracy and leave-no-stone-unturned approach to nonfiction writing. For The Only Thing Worth Dying For, he interviewed the surviving members of ODA 574, Special Operations soldiers and airmen, key commanders, war planners, and Hamid Karzai. He also scoured the military records and personal writings of the Green Berets involved. This unprecedented access continued with Fearless: Adam Brown’s civilian and military life was recounted to Blehm by family, friends, SEAL teammates, and other members of the military. In addition, he drew from official documents, statements, military records and reports, criminal records, family archives, letters, emails, and journal and diary entries. While writing The Last Season, Blehm pieced together the portrait of Randy Morgenson from journals, letters, photos, and interviews with his wife, friends, and colleagues, as well as by retracing Morgenson’s steps in the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
This diligent reportage has made Blehm a recognized voice in many communities, including National Park Service search-and-rescue (the Morgenson investigation was one of the most extensive search-and-rescue operations in NPS history) and various branches of the military, particularly the Special Operations community.
Blehm is also the founder of Molly the Owl Books, the independent publishing company behind Molly the Owl—his popular nonfiction children’s book about a barn owl and her family-which won the 2011 Nautilus Award and the 2011 San Diego Book Award. Currently, he is working on his next nonfiction book, which takes place during the Cold War era.
Good To Know
Some fascinating outtakes from our interview with Blehm:
"I became a writer so I could see the world and experience some of the places and things I'd read about as a kid. My mother died from cancer when I was 17, and toward the end of her life she told me, "If there is something you want to do in life, do it now, because you don't know about tomorrow." She had been a workaholic and was always putting off things like travel for later. Because she didn't get that chance, I have lived my life through her words of wisdom. Don't wait. If you have something you want to do, get on it. One of the best decisions I made was to use my savings to travel around the world for almost a year with my wife before we settled down and started a family. It was a time to slow down after working high-stress jobs right out of college and really relish the experiences.
Although I've been called an adventurer because of the stories I've written in locales ranging from the Himalaya to Iran, I have to say that being a parent is the greatest adventure of all. It's the most amazing, wonderful, exciting, and challenging "journey" that I've ever been on. My hat goes off to parents everywhere who try to make this world a better place by filling it with open-minded, responsible, and kind-hearted kids who will become open-minded, responsible, and kind-hearted adults.
It took me seven years to get through college, working 30 hours a week all the way through. First, however, I moved to Breckenridge, Colorado, to be a snowboard bum. So many people told me, "If you quit school now, you'll never go back." I knew I wanted a higher education, but I didn't know what in, so I followed my heart and eventually ended up graduating with honors from San Diego State University with a degree in journalism and a minor in outdoor recreation.
Snowboarding has been my ticket to seeing the world. Surfing has been my yoga. I think it's important to have something in your life that transcends being just a hobby. Something fulfilling, not because of success or accomplishments but simply through the act of doing it. Fishing, not to catch fish, but to be in the wilds ... that sort of thing.
I once jumped into a freezing-cold lake to try to revive a drowning trout. I would rather surf a lesser, uncrowded wave than deal with the vibe of a crowded peak. My idea of a perfect day is doing anything with my family, unplugged from the rest of the world. I believe in karma and the Golden Rule. I like good tequila better than good wine. I can get dressed for almost any occasion in less than five minutes. I've been saying I'll try yoga for about twenty years now. I'd rather fish a wild stream for small fish than a dammed lake for big fish. I actually really like my in-laws, all of them. Hospitals scare me. Oh, and about that trout-it lived to swim another day.