May 13, 1942 – Feb. 11, 2020
David G. Stout, a former Buffalo News reporter who went on to a lengthy career with The New York Times, always wanted to write novels.
But it wasn't until 1988, while working at The Times, that he made his debut as a published author with “Carolina Skeletons,” based on the true story of a double murder in the 1940s. Critically acclaimed, it won an Edgar Allan Poe Award for best first novel and was turned into a made-for-TV movie starring Lou Gossett Jr. and Bruce Dern.
As part of his research, Mr. Stout went to South Carolina and interviewed relatives of the victims and the sister of the 14-year-old boy who was wrongfully executed for the killings.
“In October of ‘82, I sat down at the typewriter that I had on my dining room table and I started typing,” he told Buffalo News feature writer Louise Continelli in 1988. “Once I sat down, I knew I was hooked. Starting a novel is sort of like starting a marriage, I suppose. You’re not sure how it’s going to turn out, but you know you’re in for a ride.”
He died Feb. 11 in Washington, D.C., after a struggle with esophageal cancer. He was 77.
"David was upbeat right up to the end," his friend and Buffalo News colleague Anthony Cardinale said. "On the phone we'd laugh and tell stories from our days at The News, during the final golden age of newspapers. I'll especially miss his imitations of local bigwigs."
Born in Erie, Pa., he graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1964 and earned a master’s degree in English literature from SUNY Buffalo State in 1970.
After serving six months of active duty with the Army Reserve, he began his newspaper career in 1965 as a reporter for the Erie Daily Times, covering city hall for two years and writing a weekly political column.
He came to The News in 1968, covering courts and serving as a rewrite man. Moving to the New York City area in 1977, he was a reporter and editor for The Record in Hackensack, N.J., then joined The Times in 1982 as an editor on the sports copy desk.
He became an editor on The Times’ national copy desk in 1987, an editor for The Week in Review in 1993 and rewrite man on the Metro desk in 1995.
He moved to the nation’s capital in 1997 to serve as night rewrite man for the paper’s Washington bureau. In 2000, he was named the bureau’s continuous news correspondent, covering breaking news and updating stories for The Times’ website.
He retired in 2009, but continued to contribute freelance articles, commentaries and obituaries on political figures, the most recent appearing two months ago.
He won several Publisher’s Awards at The Times and several Page One awards in Buffalo sponsored by the Buffalo Newspaper Guild.
He received an award from the New York State Associated Press for his lead story on the front page of The News on the day after the Blizzard of ‘77.
After "Carolina Skeletons," two more mysteries followed – “Night of the Ice Storm” in 1991 and “The Dog Hermit” in 1993, which also became a TV movie. He co-authored a suspense novel, "Hell Gate," with his former wife in 1990.
Mr. Stout then turned to in-depth explorations of famous crimes.
“Night of the Devil: The Untold Story of Thomas Trantino and the Angel Lounge Killings,” published in 2003, examined the slaying of two police officers in New Jersey in 1963 and its aftermath. “Boy in the Box: The Unsolved Case of America’s Unknown Child,” in 2008, told the story of the fruitless investigation of a mysterious murder in Philadelphia in 1957.
Another book, “The Kidnap Years,” an account of the epidemic of kidnappings in America during the Depression in the 1930s, is scheduled to be published in April.
"I admired him as reporter and storyteller, of course. For decades," his literary agent Deborah Asimov wrote. "How fitting that the consummate New York Times obituary writer ... chose to immerse himself for a few years in the deep research and telling of the stories of those long dead who could no longer speak for themselves."
His marriage in 1973 to the former Ruth Marks Truxes, head librarian at The News and later a freelance journalist, ended in divorce.
Survivors include his second wife, Rita, a former Soviet policewoman.