updated 03/31/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/31/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST
"I spent a whole day with Koch," says Kunen, 37. "At one point he appeared at a press conference announcing the breakup of a giant cocaine ring. There on a table were weapons captured from the gang. Because of the shooting gallery story, I was able to look at them with a knowing eye and, indeed, help other reporters by identifying them. That's what's great about journalism: Every story helps every other story."
Kunen interviewed the mayor the day that Donald Manes, a former Koch friend and city power broker under investigation in a bribery scandal, committed suicide. "Koch took a hard line about Manes," says Kunen. "Of course he was unaware that within hours Manes would be dead. I see Koch as a figure who may be brought down by his own defects. Since he isn't in it for the money, he never realized that maybe everybody else was."
Kunen is the Boston-born son of a lawyer and a librarian. He graduated from Columbia University in 1970 with a degree in government, to which he added a law degree from New York University in 1978. His experiences at Columbia during the antiwar demonstrations in 1968 led him to write The Strawberry Statement, a milestone of counterculture literature. He also published Standard Operating Procedure: Notes of a Draft-Age American, which he says "sank like a rock." Kunen's most recent book, "How Can You Defend Those People?"—The Making of a Criminal Lawyer (McGraw-Hill, 1985), is based on his experiences as a public defender in Washington, D.C. from 1978 to 1981. Kunen, now divorced and living in Manhattan, joined us last year after working as an editor at News day and a free-lancer.
"I enjoyed being a lawyer," he says, "and I think that I was a pretty good lawyer, but I came to feel that writing was my calling. As a defense attorney, you speak to 12 jurors in a box. As a writer I can speak to the whole country."