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Xavier Magazine | April 26, 2017

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A Storied Career

By France Griggs Sloat

The best thing that ever happened to Thomas Hoobler was the day his boss—the nun in charge of the school where he taught—called him into her office. “We’ve had complaints about your hair,” she said.

Hoobler was stunned. It really wasn’t that long. It was clean and combed. Besides, this was the early 1970s and longer hair was the fashion. It didn’t matter. She told him to get it cut. Hoober had a decision to make. “I was thinking, Maybe Cincinnati isn’t the place for me.”

Hoobler put his teaching career behind him and moved to New York where his career—and his life—took off. “I met the woman who would be my wife and collaborator and partner the rest of my life,” he says. Together, Tom and Dorothy Hoobler began a team-writing career that has reached about 90 books to date, including a lot of juvenile fiction and, most recently, more adult-oriented, richly researched historical narratives.

[Check out all of Hoobler’s books]

Their most recent book, The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft and Detection, traces the rise of crime in late-19th century Paris and includes a story about the little-known theft of the “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre in 1911. The story caught the attention of Vanity Fair magazine, which printed an excerpt. Its movie rights have also been optioned.

The book also delves into the cutting-edge crime scene investigative techniques—mug shots, crime scene photos—developed by Alphonse Bertillon, the head of the Paris police investigative unit. Juicy stuff, just the kind of thing the Hooblers love to dig into—together. Dorothy coordinates the research, sending Thomas to different libraries to follow interesting threads they trip over. He does most of the fiction writing, she does most of the non-fiction. One writes the first draft, the other does the rewrite. The trading continues until they’re ready to send it to the publisher. “I tease people and say we have a word processor with twin keyboards,” he says.

Hoobler’s interest in writing is rooted in his love of reading—and in his father’s printing business in Cincinnati. By age 9, he was proofreading the calendars produced in his father’s shop, and by eighth grade he’d started a school newspaper. Today, he and Dorothy squirrel away in the cluttered office they’ve carved out in their rent-controlled apartment on the west side of Manhattan where they’ve lived since 1973. It’s where they raised their daughter and where they keep digging deep into history, always searching for that next great story. After all, he says, “History has all the best stories.”

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