James Brady, a leading figure in the New York journalism world and a virtuoso storyteller who made the Korean War his canvas, has died. He was 80.
His death was reported by Parade, where he was a longtime contributor. Calls to his family home in East Hampton last night were unanswered. The magazine said he died Monday at his home in Manhattan. He is survived by his wife, Florence; two daughters, Fiona Brady and Susan Konig; four grandchildren, Sarah, Joseph, Nicholas and Matthew, and one brother, Msgr. Tom Brady.
From a prolific and enormously resourceful writer, Brady's words - for a good chunk of the past 40 years - could be found in a bewildering number of places, from Advertising Age, where he was an esteemed columnist, to Forbes, New York Magazine and Women's Wear Daily, where he was publisher. He was later publisher of Harper's Bazaar, succeeded the equally legendary Clay Felker as editor of New York magazine, and was recruited by Rupert Murdoch for various roles, including editor at a tab (the Star) and the New York Post.
One of New York media's most entertaining storytellers - others would less kindly call him a "gossip" - Brady also worked for "Page Six" and was a longtime contributor to New York TV, including WCBS/2 and CNBC.
But as Brady might have said, all those activities were his day jobs. His great passion was writing novels - of those there were many - and books on the Korean War. He was rifle company executive officer of Dog Company in the 7th Marines, which fought its way through the Taebeck Mountains of North Korea in the winter of 1951-52.
In 1990, he wrote an elegiac book, a Pulitzer finalist, titled "The Coldest War: A Memoir of Korea." Like Philip Caputo's classic, "A Rumor of War," the book etched the daily life of a grunt in clear, precise and near poetic prose:
"On the third day of the storm, the snow thinned and stopped. More than three feet had fallen, and now a colder drier wind swept down from the north, ignoring the line of battle on its cruel neutral passage from Siberia to the sea."
Enormously proud of his service, Brady also spoke frequently to veterans' groups about the "forgotten war," becoming one of that war's most visible and eloquent chroniclers. In an interview with CNN in 1990, he recalled, "I was a very unsure and rather immature 23-year-old when I arrived in Korea. Nine months later when I left, I was a grown-up and a pretty good Marine officer. War is a strange country, with its own rules. You can't really learn about war in a training camp in the United States. It has to be on-the-job training on the battlefield."
His years in New York media circles were legendary. He was a raconteur of the first order, and to merely mention a name, preferably famous, would initiate a story - invariably an entertaining one.
"I'm a city boy, born in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn," Brady told Newsday in 1997, upon publication of his Hamptons novel, "Further Lane." I have never lived in a place - and I've lived in Paris, London, Washington, Manhattan - which I've found as beautiful, as comfortable and as wonderful as East Hampton. Part of that is the strangeness of it."
"I know the names and I read the local papers out there," he added. "The old story about the little boy with his nose pressed against the glass, looking in at the party or the ball, there's still a lot of that in me, because I know somewhere down the line I'm going to get a novel out of it. Everything is grist."