About the Author
Dolan, a Washington, D.C. native, is the son, grandson, and great-grandson of
bookbinders. He grew up in College Park, Maryland, a suburb of the capital.
After graduating in 1968 from Gonzaga College High School, Dolan enrolled at
the University of Maryland, where he studied English literature and American
history and worked on student publications and at the campus radio station.
He financed his college education by working nights and summers as a grounds
keeper, construction laborer, roller coaster operator, engineer's assistant,
and pizza chef. He got his B.A. in 1975.During the 1970s, Dolan bounced through
a variety of jobs, including managing editor of an alternative weekly, paste-up
artist in a print shop, small-college propagandist, newspaper production manager,
technical editor, and trade association journal writer.
In 1978, Dolan hired on to edit a newsletter on U.S. regulation of medical devices. For the next 23 years, he supported his family as a trade journalist while establishing a career as a freelance writer. During this period, Dolan also worked as the on-camera home handyman for the local edition of Westinghouse program PM Magazine; as manager/lyricist for The Catholics, a post-punk power-pop band headed by his brother, Kevin; and as a rewriter of other people's books, including Johnny's Girl, a memoir by Kim Rich that was made into a Hallmark TV special starring Treat Williams.
During 1982-99, Dolan wrote for the Washington Times, Washington City Paper, the Washington Post, and many other regional outlets, as well selling articles to the New Yorker, Newsday, Slate, Outside, and the New York Times Magazine. His widely-discussed, little-read September 1987 Washington City Paper article on Judge Robert Bork's video rentals spurred passage of a federal law protecting the privacy of video rental data. He has taught feature writing under the aegis of Smithsonian Associates.
In 1981, Dolan and his wife, Eileen O'Toole, bought a 1920s bungalow at the edge of D.C., near the Potomac River. The couple spent eight years renovating the house wall by wall and room by room, eventually demolishing the decrepit front porch and replacing it with one that Dolan, an amateur architect, designed. This project inspired Dolan to begin researching the history of the porch (see “Author Q&A”).
Dolan and O'Toole, a school psychologist, have a son, Marty, a student.
In 1995, Dolan began writing documentary television scripts for such clients as National Geographic TV and Discovery Channel. He was senior writer for the 1998 and 1999 Discovery Channel Eco Challenge programs. These yearly four-hour specials covered an adventure race held those years in the wilds of Morocco and northern Patagonia; the show on the Moroccan race won a special achievement Emmy. Since then, Dolan has moved further into TV work as a producer and writer for such programs and series as Explorer, Taboo, Snake Wranglers, The Critical Eye, Crocodile Chronicles, and others. The American Porch is his first book.
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