William Alexander McPherson was born in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan on March 16, 1933. He attended the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, but did not earn a degree. In 1958, he found work as a copy boy at The Washington Post. He later became a staff writer for the women's page and then travel editor. He left The Post to become a senior editor at William Morrow in 1966. He returned to The Post in 1969 and was put in charge of its Sunday book supplement, then called Book Week. When Book Week, jointly produced by The Post and The Chicago Tribune, ceased publication in 1972, he became the first editor of its successor, Book World, produced solely by The Post. He received the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1977. He was the author of Testing the Current and To the Sargasso Sea. He moved to Romania for nearly seven years and filed reports for several publications including Granta and The Wilson Quarterly. He moved back to Washington and settled into a quiet life of occasional journalism, declining health, and dwindling finances. He died from complications of congestive heart failure and pneumonia on March 28, 2017 at the age of 84.