Richard T. Sale, 81, an international affairs journalist and novelist, died on May 9, 2020, at Duke Hospice – Hock Pavilion in Durham. The cause was liposarcoma, a rare cancer, said his wife, Carol A. Huff.
An unassuming writer of national security news and fiction novels, Mr. Sale notably worked for The Washington Post, United Press International (UPI), Life Magazine and Aerospace Daily. His published books include: “Clinton’s Secret Wars,” St. Martin’s Press 2009; “Traitors,” Berkley Books 2003; and “The Blackstone Rangers,” Random House 1971.
His to-be-published work includes an historical fiction based on his coverage for Life Magazine of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and a fictional novel from his reporting inside the Arizona State Prison.
For The Washington Post in 1977, Mr. Sale wrote a six-part series on growing tension in Iran, including the first reports of the instability of Shah Mohammed Reza.
Mr. Sale was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in international reporting at UPI by Managing Editor Barry Sussman. Cited in the nomination was Mr. Sale’s penetration of the U.S. intelligence community to report exclusively on secret developments affecting America’s relations abroad. This included the KGB’s construction in the 1980s of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow as a giant “bug,” or listening device.
UPI credited Mr. Sale as “an incessant, tireless reader of books on history, diplomatic practice, political biography and theory,” that informed his stories which “never blame or praise political actions, but simply provide a descriptive analysis,” according to the nomination.
After 27 years in Washington, D.C., Mr. Sale lived in Hawaii for six years where his coverage for the Honolulu daily papers included the military’s largest amphibious movement since the Korean War, as well as human interest stories such as the Easter ritual at Punchbowl National Cemetery.
Returning to UPI in 2000, Mr. Sale earned the international service the distinction of being the first news organization to name Osama bin Laden responsible for the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. This was followed by Mr. Sale’s exclusive report of a possible explosion of a nuclear weapon in downtown Washington, D.C.
For the last 15 years, Mr. Sale wrote political analysis on the Sic Semper Tyrannis website of retired Col. W. Patrick Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official.
With a life of accomplishment and refined taste in literature, music and the arts, Mr. Sale was most comfortable with a relaxed style, characterized by having a sophisticated cocktail in a fine restaurant, followed by a hamburger and French fries.
In addition to his wife of 30 years, Carol Huff, Mr. Sale is survived by his children James Sale, and wife, Rebecca, of Pasadena, Calif.; Christopher Spiller of Arvada, Colo.; and Tandis Cavagnuolo of Miami Beach, Fla.; also his grandchildren Addison and Emma Sale; Caden and Coltin Spiller; and Capri and Siena Cavagnuolo.
Other survivors include his former spouse, Haida McGovern of Great Falls, Va.; his sister, Lindsey Tucker Bowen, Ph.D., of Cutler Bay, Fla.; and his half-brother, Edward Sale of Pasadena, Calif.; his in-laws, Fred A. and Ann Huff, brother-in-law, Fred J. Huff of Du Quoin, Ill.; and sister-in-law, Susan Smith, and husband, John of Carbondale, Ill.
Mr. Sale is predeceased by his father, film director and writer Richard B. Sale; and mother, Arline Walker Sale Evans.
He was born in New Rochelle, N.Y., spent his early years in Westchester County, N.Y., and attended Columbia University in New York City, graduating from Principia College in Elsah, Ill.
Mr. Sale was cremated as requested. A Celebration of Life is planned for this summer. In lieu of flowers and to honor Mr. Sale and his feline friends, the family suggests contributions to the donor’s favorite animal protection agency.
Epicurean thought guided Mr. Sale, who believed that what drove the best of human beings was not a desire for fame or riches or power, but the desire to create something solid, original, and beautiful, something that would endure beyond the reach of time.