On this episode, we are replaying an interview Matt Tullis did with David Giffels in January 2015. Giffels is a former reporter and columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio who has gone on to become a creative writing professor in the Northeast Ohio MFA program. He’s also the author of three books.
When he was on the show in 2015, his book, “The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt,” had just been published by Scribner. The book ruminates on Akron — Giffels’ hometown — specifically the city’s despair and destruction as the rubber industry moved out. It also embraces Akron’s resurgence.
In January of this year, Giffels’ third book was published. “Furnishing Eternity: A Father, a Son, a Coffin and a Measure of Life” is about what ended up being the last woodworking project Giffels ever did with his 81-year-old father; designing and building his own coffin. The book was release on January 2. Three days later, his father died. He wrote about that in an essay that was published on the Atlantic’s website on Father’s Day.
On this episode, we are replaying an interview Matt Tullis did with Baxter Holmes of ESPN from back in 2014. At the time, Holmes had just joined ESPN, having previously written for the Boston Globe, where he covered the Boston Celtics.
When Tullis talked with him four years ago, he had been hired to cover the Lakers. Since then, he’s had some incredible success, and has been promoted to a job that has him writing about the entire NBA.
One of the stories that came about in that new beat was a story on how professional basketball players are obsessed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The story – The NBA’s Secret Addiction – went viral, and ultimately ended up winning Holmes a James Beard Foundation media award for feature reporting, a top award in the culinary industry. He received his award at the end of April.
At any rate, on this episode, Baxter talks about his story about the time Bill Russell, KC Jones and other players from the University of San Francisco – which had just won the NCAA national championship – visited inmates at Alcatraz. It was his last story for the Boston Globe before he joined ESPN.
Leah Sottile is a freelance writer who, most recently, authored and hosted “Bundyville,” a four-part story series and seven-episode podcast, which was presented by Longreads and Oregon Public Broadcasting.
The project is the deepest dive yet into the Bundy family — that’s the family that fought back against federal law enforcement officers out west not once, but twice, a few years ago — and how they have become a symbol for those who feel the government is keeping them from living their true lives.
Sottile’s features, profiles and investigative work has been featured frequently by the Washington Post, Playboy, California Sunday, Outside Magazine, Longreads, and many other publications.
Before freelancing, she was a staff writer at The Inlander, in Spokane, Washington, where she wrote about music, and was the host of two very late-night heavy metal radio programs.
Brantley Hargrove is the author of “The Man Who Caught The Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras,” which was published by Simon & Schuster in April. The book is about a legendary storm chaser who, despite never going to college, was a hugely successful engineer who also managed to record the first meteorological data from inside a massive tornado.
The book has gotten rave reviews. Hampton Sides, the author of “In the Kingdom of Ice,” said that “The Man Who Caught the Storm” is “a thrilling tale of Promethean defiance.” The Washington Post said that Hargrove is “one of today’s best science writers” who “takes the reader not only on a journey through the remarkable life of engineer-explorer Samaras, but also through the beautifully desolate roads of the Plains while on the chase.”
Hargrove has written for Wired, Popular Mechanics, and Texas Monthly, among other publications. He’s gone inside the effort to reverse-engineer super tornadoes using super computers. He’s chased violent storms from the Great Plains to the Texas Coast. But he’s also done more than just write about devastating storms. He has also explored the world of South American jewel thieves who terrorize diamond dealers in South Florida.
Terrence McCoy covers poverty, inequality and social justice in urban and rural America for the Washington Post.
In February, he wrote the story “I don’t know how you got this way.” That piece is about how a young neo-Nazi has revealed himself to his family, and how his mother and grandmother are left wondering if they will ever get him back.
He served in the United States Peace Corps in Cambodia, an experience that ultimately led to “The Playground,” a Kindle single available on Amazon. That book was named by the Washington Post as one of the best nonfiction books of 2013.
His story “Today, Her Whole Life Is a Free Skate” was included in Best American Sports Writing 2017.
One of his recent stories was about a family whose 6-year-old daughter was killed by the flu. A year ago, McCoy wrote a series about people who were dying while waiting to be approved for disability assistance, something that has already sparked some change in Washington, D.C.
This is a special, mini-episode of the podcast, and one that host Matt Tullis admits is greatly self-promotional.
He has made a trailer for his book, “Running With Ghosts.” Some authors have been making or have had made book trailers for several years now, and he thought it would be fun to try and do one himself.
The video — which has been embedded on gangreythepodcast.com — consists of a reading of the prologue from the book, as well as photos that are tied to the days when Tullis had leukemia. There are also photos of the cancer patients he writes about who didn’t survive.
Don Van Natta Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print media. He was recently named a finalist — along with his reporting and writing partner Seth Wickersham — for a National Magazine Award in reporting for three stories: “Sin City or Bust,” “Standing Down,” and “Roger Goodell has a Jerry Jones problem.” Wickersham appeared on Episode 28 of the podcast, back in 2014.
Van Natta has had quite the illustrious career. He’s been on three Pulitzer Prize winning reporting teams — two at the New York Times and one at the Miami Herald.
He joined ESPN in 2012, and has since produced many features and investigative pieces centered around the NFL. His profile of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in August 2014 is particularly amazing because of the access he got from a subject who initially did not want to participate.
In 2014, Van Natta started the Sunday Long Read newsletter with Jacob Feldman, a reporter for Sports Illustrated. The two launched the Sunday Long Read podcast in August of last year, and so far has produced more than a dozen episodes featuring some amazing reporters and writers.
Van Natta is currently working on a book with Wickersham. The book, tentatively titled “Powerball,” will be published by Crown Archetype in 2020.