I first came across the work of Pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist David Halberstam, who died in a road accident in California yesterday, in 2002 when his book War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton and the Generals was first published in the UK.
It was a fascinating, insightful examination of American foreign and military policy in the 1990s, exmaining intervention in the Balkans, Somalia, Haiti and other places. Very modern history is not really my thing, but at the time it felt important to try and gain a greater understanding of what all these conflicts meant in a changing world, and Halberstam provided an enlightened view of that, and I'm glad I read it.
And I probably didn't think about Halberstam again until he published The Education of a Coach, a biography of Bill Belichick, the successful head coach of the New England Patriots and one of the more enigmatic and complex individuals in the world of sport.
Halberstam's portait was extraordinary and revealing, a rare example (in my experience) of academic rigour being applied to sports, and a work that made sense of Belichick's approach to football, the media and life.
Being able to switch seamlessly between politics, history and sport cannot be easy - or presumably more people would do it. But Halberstam did it throughout a long and rich career in which he wrote about everything from Vietnam to Fenway Park, and everybody from Michael Jordan to Bobby Kennedy. And he brought the best of each discipline to all his work.
It seems odd to reflect on the life of a 73-year-old who achieved so much and conclude that he seemed a long way from done, and that a senseless, tragic accident has robbed the world of a man who would surely have provided so much more. I feel lucky that I have a great deal more of his work still to read.
There's an illuminating story about the young Halberstam on a Belichick fan site, atbb.
I'll leave it to Belichick himself, who released this statement through the Patriots organisation, to pay the tribute: "It was a privilege and honor to watch David practice his craft and an even greater one to call him a friend. David was as warm, considerate, intelligent, interesting and accomplished a person as I have ever met and his loss is heartbreaking."