Wright Thompson is a senior writer at ESPN, and the author of Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things that Last. That book just came out earlier this week. It’s published by Penguin Press.
Pappyland had a strange route to publication. It was initially supposed to be a book Thompson ghost-wrote for Julian Van Winkle. Van Winkle is a bourbon genius who found a way to rebuild a business that was built by his grandfather and lost by his father.
In the process, he’s created a bourbon that people pay more than $3,000 a bottle for.
But ultimately, Thompson saw the book become something more, a book about a man who makes bourbon, and one who drinks it.
The book is also about fatherhood. It’s about both Thompson’s father, who passed away several years ago, and Thompson, who in the book, is in the process of becoming a father.
It’s almost magical that just five days before Pappyland was released, Thompson’s second daughter was born.
Pappyland is actually Thompson’s second book. His first, The Cost of These Dreams, is an anthology of his best work from ESPN. He’s still writing longform narrative pieces for ESPN. He’s also producing the TV series True South, which focuses on southern food and culture. The show airs on the SEC Network.
Thompson was a guest in the early days of the podcast. He was featured on Episode 11 in October 2013. At the time, we talked about his profiles of Michael Jordan and legendary wrestling coach Dan Gable.