Jim Frederick, a former foreign correspondent and editor whose 2010 book about an atrocity committed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq was praised for its thorough reporting and acuity in parsing the psychological erosion of men in war, died on July 31 in Oakland, California. He was 42.
The cause was cardiac arrhythmia and arrest, said his wife, Charlotte Greensit.
Frederick spent most of his career at Time Inc. as a reporter and editor for Money and Time magazines. At Time, he was the Tokyo bureau chief, a senior editor based in London, managing editor of Time.com and managing editor of Time International before leaving the company in 2013.
His book, “Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death,” explores a grievous crime committed by four U.S. soldiers: the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of her family in their small house in the village of Yusufiya, south and west of Baghdad, in March 2006.
Without blinking and without excusing, Frederick documented the intense and withering experience of a group of men who were poorly commanded, overwhelmed with stress and witness to myriad bloody calamities, including the deaths of comrades. One of the book’s most noted strengths was in demonstrating the state of mind of men who have seemingly been stripped of all sense of their humanity.
“At the prodding of his platoon sergeant, Green went to see Lieutenant Colonel Karen Marrs, a psychiatric nurse practitioner from the Combat Stress team who was visiting Bravo Company’s base on December 21,” Frederick wrote of one of the men, Pvt. Steven Green of Midland, Texas. “The intake evaluation form she filled out while talking to him that day is a horror show of ailments and dysfunctions. In the entry marked ‘Chief Complaint,’ she quoted him: ‘It is f — ing pointless.’ Green told Marrs he had been suffering from symptoms of instability, extreme moods and angry outbursts, including punching walls.
“He told her he was experiencing all of the following: sadness, difficulty falling asleep, nightmares, anxiety, worry, increased heart rate, tightness of chest, shortness of breath, feelings of helplessness, being easily startled, being quick to anger and thoughts that he would not make it out of combat alive. Green told Marrs he was having suicidal and homicidal ideations, especially thoughts about killing Iraqi civilians. On his one-page intake sheet, Marrs noted his wanting to kill Iraqis four separate times. One entry states, ‘Interests: None other than killing Iraqis.’ ”
Frederick’s “riveting account of the crime and the events leading up to it,” Joshua Hammer wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “combines elements of ‘In Cold Blood’ and ‘Black Hawk Down’ with a touch of ‘Apocalypse Now.’ ”
James Durkin Frederick was born on Nov. 22, 1971, in Lake Forest, Illinois, north of Chicago, and grew up in nearby Libertyville. His father, Edwin Lawrence Frederick Jr., known as Larry, is a retired paving company executive; his mother, the former Eileen Durkin, is a nurse. He studied English literature at Columbia University and received an MBA from the Stern School of Business at New York University. Before joining Time Inc., he worked at Men’s Journal and Working Woman magazine.
While in Tokyo, he was the co-author, with Charles Robert Jenkins, of Jenkins’ 2008 memoir about the four-decade nightmare that followed his misguided desertion from the Army into North Korea in 1965. The book, “The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea,” details Jenkins’ experience under the cruel and bizarre scrutiny of Korean minders and finally presents him as an American patriot.
“This extraordinary book opens a window on a world of fathomless evil,” The Wall Street Journal’s review said, “and it tells a heartbreaking story — of a life lived in adversity and conducted with a mixture of fortitude, resignation, tenderness and regret.”
In addition to his parents and his wife, a journalist whom he met at Time in London and married in 2011, Frederick is survived by two sisters, Laura Biagi and Sharon Frederick; and a brother, Edwin III, known as Ted.
After returning from extensive international travel, Frederick and his wife had just moved to San Francisco, where they founded a consulting company, Hybrid Vigor Media. They were also working on a screenplay together that Greensit described as “a romantic comedy about a New York writer who goes to England and meets a Yorkshire farmer’s daughter.”
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