James Dalessandro was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and started writing poems and short stories at age six. He attended Valley Forge High School, studied journalism at Ohio University, and screenwriting at UCLA Film School. After seeing a documentary on the Beat Poets, he packed his bags and hitchhiked to San Francisco, but upon his arrival, was told he was “10 years too late to be part of it.” At age 23, he founded The Santa Cruz Poetry Festival, with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Ken Kesey; serving as its director from 1973 - 1977. At the time, it was the nation's largest annual literary festival, bringing together the likes of Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, and Gary Snyder to the seaside town of Santa Cruz, CA; breaking attendance records, with 2,000+ people gathering at the Civic Auditorium each night. Ferlinghetti later said, "James Dalessandro has given a rebirth to American poetry. He's one of the new breed of populist poets who has something to say, quite clearly, about life on the wild side."
He moved to Los Angeles in 1980 to pursue a career in screenwriting, selling his first screenplay to Motown while still a student at UCLA. He wrote more than 75 trailer campaigns, mostly for Columbia Pictures. After selling more than a dozen screenplays, and his first novel, BOHEMIAN HEART (St. Martin's Press, 1993), an update of the classic Noir San Francisco Detective Thriller, he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1995.
James has published four books: “Canary In A Coal Mine” (poetry); “Bohemian Heart; “Citizen Jane” (true crime), and “1906,” a novel about the great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. In 2005, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution he wrote and proposed, on behalf of himself and historian Gladys Hansen, asking that the "official" death count of 478 people be amended to reflect the factually accurate count of "3,000 plus victims;” an event that made international news. On April 18, 2006, the documentary, "The Damnedest, Finest Ruins," which James wrote, directed and produced, was presented at the 100 year Commemorative, drawing more than 50,000 people to the streets of San Francisco. The documentary was picked up by KQED/PBS of San Francisco, and now airs on their Youtube.com channel, "TRULY CALIFORNIA."
In September 2009, the Hallmark Channel aired “Citizen Jane,” a film about the story of Jane Alexander, a Marin County, California woman who spent 13 years tracking down and helping to convict the man who murdered her 88-year-old aunt. Dalessandro wrote the teleplay and served as one of the films producers.
In 2010, “PLAYBOY” Magazine published his 7,000 word article, "PETROSINO vs. THE BLACK HAND," the true story of a NY Shoeshine boy who was drafted into the NYPD, to fight crime in Italian run neighborhoods; beginning what would ultimately turn into an astonishing 26-year-career on the force. James sold a mini-series based on the “PETROSINO” article, to the FX Channel, where he was hired to develop the Pilot episode and Series Bible, with the help of his friend Bobby Moresco, Oscar-winning writer of “CRASH” and “MILLION DOLLAR BABY.”
In April of 2015, the Digital/Kindle edition of “1906” was released on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes Books. Within two hours, it rose to #1 in Historical Fiction/Thriller/Suspense, and #2 in Literary Fiction. It remained in the Top 10 for several weeks, and Top 100 for more than two months. James is currently represented by David Saunders, co-owner and Head of Literary at the APA Agency in Los Angeles.
Dalessandro has lectured at the Cinequest Film Festival and the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles, CA. He formerly taught "Screenwriting as a Pro" at Fort Mason Art Center in San Francisco, CA. He currently teaches Advanced Screenwriting at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA.
James is married to the former Kathleen "Katie" Callies and has an adopted son, Jeremy Christopher Katevas. He lives in Marin County, California.