A brief autobiography by the author.

Authors often write under a pen name (a “pseudonym” if they’re into Greek, or “nom de plume” if they fancy French). I’m no exception. The full name I was born with is Michael Craft Johnson. I decided to write as Michael Craft not to conceal my identity or to create confusion, but merely to give my author’s persona a more “literary” ring. Somehow, “Michael Craft” sounds more like a man of letters than does “Mike Johnson.”

I was born in 1950 in Elgin, Illinois, which is located on the Fox River some 40 miles northwest of Chicago. My childhood was unremarkable, as I grew up during the heat of the Baby Boom in a small Midwestern city that then numbered about 50,000 and still manufactured wristwatches. I attended a Catholic grade school for eight years, and while the religion didn’t stick, the discipline and the love of language did. Back then, remember, those first eight years of education were known as “grammar school.”

The next four years were spent at Elgin Academy, a private boarding school (now a day school) that I attended as a day student. A number of lifelong interests were nurtured there, including music, theater, and running. I graduated valedictorian, which sounds more impressive than it really was because there were only 34 of us in my class—I was something of a big fish in a small pond.

Then on to college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (a considerably larger pond). I enrolled as an architecture student, but switched during my first year to graphic design, the major in which I graduated. I stayed on for several years of graduate school with the Institute for Communications Research, but by 1976, I realized it was time to enter the “real world.”

I was lucky enough to land a job at the Chicago Tribune, not as a reporter (as some of my readers might assume), but as an art director in the paper’s editorial-design department. I was one of perhaps a dozen designers responsible for the look of the paper itself. During my ten years there, I spent four years designing the front page of “Tempo,” the daily features section, and another two years designing the Sunday magazine. I also absorbed the milieu of the newsroom, which would later prove useful as the setting for my Mark Manning mysteries.

During my tenure at the Tribune, I moved north to Kenosha, Wisconsin, which, like Chicago, is located along the western shore of Lake Michigan. Commuting the 50-some miles by train, spending some three hours a day sitting with my briefcase in my lap while watching the world whisk by, I decided to put that time to use by working toward a long-held goal: I wanted to write a novel. Sometime in 1980, I started making notes, and within a year or so, I had a draft.

During that long struggle to get published, I went through two important life changes. First, in 1982, Leon and I found each other. Second, in 1987, I left the Tribune and went to work with Leon in his family-owned business, which manufactured musical wind instruments. With the support and security I enjoyed while working with Leon, I was able to launch my “other” career as a novelist.

As a reflection of my long-held interest in theater, I have also tried my hand as both a playwright and a screenwriter. My stage play Photo Flash was first produced in Wisconsin in 2003, then again in California in 2008. In 2011, I was deeply involved in the production of an independent film titled Pink Squirrels.

With my best wishes,


Lambda Literary Foundation
Mystery Writers of America
Society of Midland Authors
Literary Society of the Desert
Palm Springs Writers Guild
Rancho Mirage Public Library Foundation


The author in 1952.


In 1972. That tie!


First novel, 1993.


Author's curtain call, Photo Flash, 2008.


Film debut, Pink Squirrels, 2011.


With my best wishes.


Wedding cake, 2013.


Latest novel, 2018.