Paul Brodeur was born in Boston, and graduated from Phillips Academy Andover and Harvard College. After college, he enlisted in the United States Army Counter-intelligence Corps and was sent to Germany, where he was placed in charge of counter-espionage and counter-sabotage at a nuclear weapons underground storage depot. Upon his return to the United States, he became a staff writer at The New Yorker where he remained for many years.
In 1968, he alerted the nation to the massive occupational and environmental health problem posed by asbestos, and has written four books on the subject. Among them are EXPENDABLE AMERICANS (The Viking Press) and OUTRAGEOUS MISCONDUCT: THE ASBESTOS INDUSTRY ON TRIAL (Pantheon). The articles in The New Yorker that made up these books won a National Magazine Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Sidney Hillman Foundation Award, a journalism award from the Association of American Trial Lawyers, and the Silver Gavel Award of the American Bar Association.
Brodeur’s articles on the depletion of the ozone layer by man-made chemicals helped bring about an international agreement limiting the production of these chemicals. The articles won the Journalism Award of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and resulted in his being named to the United Nations Global 500 Roll of Honour for outstanding environmental achievements.
Other articles by the author helped bring about the removal of substances in household detergents that posed a health hazard to consumers and workers, warned that cancer-producing chemicals had become major contaminants in drinking water, and called attention to the carcinogenic and reproductive hazards caused by anesthetic gases to anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists, which resulted in scavenging them from operating rooms in hospitals across the nation.
Pioneering articles on the health hazards associated with exposure to microwave radiation won an Alicia Patterson Foundation Award, and were included in a book entitled, THE ZAPPING OF AMERICA (W.W. Norton.) A series of pieces on the hazards of exposure to power-line electromagnetic fields won a public service award from the American Society of Professional Journalists. These pieces subsequently appeared in two books— CURRENTS OF DEATH (Simon and Schuster) and THE GREAT POWER-LINE COVER-UP (Little, Brown).
Articles on the land claims of the Native Americans of New England were published as a book entitled, RESTITUTION by Northeastern University Press.
A memoir entitled SECRETS: A WRITER IN THE COLD WAR (Faber and Faber) recounts Brodeur’s experiences as a counter-intelligence agent in Germany during the 1950s, and as a long-time staff writer at The New Yorker.
Brodeur’s short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, Playboy, Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, American Short Fiction, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, and The Sewanee Review. A number of them were collected in a book entitled, DOWNSTREAM (Atheneum). His novel entitled, THE SICK FOX (Atlantic Monthly Press) received critical acclaim here and in Europe, as did another novel, THE STUNT MAN (Atheneum) which was made into a film starring Peter O’Toole and nominated for three Academy awards.
His most recent work is a novel titled, THE SCOUT'S ACCOUNT: In the Shadow of the Mayflower, which tells the story of a young Nauset warrior, who observes the Pilgrims landing on Cape Cod, in 1620, and becomes a ship captain, fur trader, spy, gunrunner, and guerrilla fighter for his insurgent people as he takes part in many of the key events of the conquest of the Native Americans of New England by the European invaders of 17th Century New England.
Between 1969 and 1979, Brodeur directed the Magazine Article Writing Workshop at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He has also directed writing classes at Boston University’s School of Communications, Fairfield University, Harvard University, and the University of California at San Diego.
In 2010 and 2011, Brodeur engaged in a highly publicized dispute with The New York Public Library over the disposition of a collection of papers he had donated to the Library in 1992. In the spring of 2011, the Authors Guild Bulletin published an article by him entitled, “Donor Beware: A Breach of Trust at The New York Public Library.” The article described a proposal by the Library to delete ¾ of his collection 18 years after he had donated it, and its refusal to return the entire collection to him so that he could donate it elsewhere. A month later, The New York Times, ran an article about the dispute in which a Library official declared that Brodeur’s collection had not been processed until 2010. This claim was denied by a former senior curator at the Library who stated in writing that Brodeur’s collection had been fully processed by 1997 when she had invited him to tour the archives beneath Bryant Park where it had been stored. The conflict was finally resolved in 2013 when The Library agreed to transfer the entire collection to the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University, which took possession of it in February, 2014.
Brodeur lives on Cape Cod and in the Florida Keys. He is an avid saltwater fly fisherman.