“I’m a recovering newspaper journalist,” Chris Cox liked to say when he described his earlier career, during which he spent 16 years at the Boston Herald, and another three years at a paper in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 2005 he gave up his full-time newspaper job to relaunch himself as a freelance magazine travel writer and novelist. It was about that time when Chris sent his first query letter to Audubon, pitching a story on one of the world’s top birders, who had racked up a record “life list” of more than 6,700 species.
Chris sold that story to the magazine, and many others in the years that followed, taking readers to such far-flung destinations as Cambodia, Botswana, and Puerto Rico, as well as to places closer to home, including Florida’s Everglades and the Bay of Fundy to write about the fascinating nature of mangrove forests and an unusual phenomenon called a “tidal bore.” Chris died at his home in Acton, Massachusetts on June 2, after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 57.
Born in Honolulu, the son of a naval officer, Chris had wanderlust in his veins. His father’s Navy assignments transported him and his two younger sisters to Adak Island, Alaska; Washington, D.C.; St. Paul, Minnesota; and the Panama Canal Zone. Chris developed a passion for exotic foods, music, film, and an encyclopedic knowledge that earned him the nickname “Answer Man,” at the Herald.
Chris met his wife, Maria, in 1990 in Brazil. The couple was living in Boston when he proposed to her by circling an ad in the classified section of the Herald that read: “Girl from Ipanema, will you be my wife.” They got married in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. Soon they had a son, named Tim, who would inherit his father’s passion for running track. On June 1, Tim’s Acton-Boxboro Regional High School track team won the Massachusetts state title. He graduated the following week, and he will attend Yale in the fall.
A natural storyteller, Chris had an extraordinary talent for transporting his readers to the faraway places where he forded rivers, eluded charging elephants, floated in bioluminescent waters, and trekked over mountaintops in search of rare birds. He paid attention to the details that make a story spring to life and wove his real-life experiences and interviews with the rich histories of the places where he traveled, captivating readers through the very last word.
His first book, Chasing the Dragon: Into the Heart of the Golden Triangle, was published in 1996, and his first mystery novel, A Good Death, debuted in February. He wrote for Reader’s Digest,Cond