Episode 100: Allison Glock

Allison Glock is the type of writer who succeeds in a variety of genres. She writes young adult fiction. She’s an executive producer for the NBC series “The Blacklist.” She’s written for the New Yorker and Garden & Gun magazine. She’s written poetry, and produces short documentary films.

In this episode, we start off by talking about an essay she wrote for espnW at the end of 2020. The essay, “Walk, run, or wheelbarrow: We moved our bodies forward during the pandemic,” is about how we dealt with COVID in the days when we were locked down.

That essay leads off the new sports anthology series “The Year’s Best Sports Writing 2021.” That’s a new series started by Glenn Stout. The series, published by Triumph Books, continues the tradition carried on by “Best American Sports Writing,” which ended its run in 2020. Stout talks about the new series at the end of this episode.

Glock got her start doing longform narrative for magazines, but has transitioned to film and TV out of economic necessity. She’s doing amazing work there, including her work on The Blacklist, and videos made by her production company, Holler Beach Productions. One of the videos produced was about southern women.

Episode 99: Marissa R. Moss

Marissa R. Moss is a freelancer who writes about musicians for Rolling Stone, Billboard, American Songwriter, and more. In August, she profiled country music superstar Sturgill Simpson for Rolling Stone

Moss has been writing about music for years. She writes a lot about country musicians, partially because she lives in Nashville. But also because she loves the storytelling aspect of it. 

Moss has written about Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell, Tanya Tucker, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, and more. She was given the Best Music Reporter award by Nashville Scene in 2019.

Now she is putting the finishing touches on her first book. “Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed To Be” will be published by Henry Holt and Company. It goes on sale in May 2022.

Episode 98: Kent Babb

Kent Babb is a sports feature writer for the Washington Post. He writes about the NFL, college sports, the NBA, and the intersections of sports with social, cultural, and political issues.

We talked about his new book, Across the River: Life, Death, and Football in an American City. It was published by HarperOne in August. 

Across the River is a riveting look at a high school football team in a part of New Orleans few of us ever hear about. It’s a team made up of players and coaches who have to deal with shootings and murder on a regular basis.

Babb is also one of the writers included in The Year’s Best Sports Writing 2021. That’s the new anthology created by Glenn Stout. The book goes on sale October 5. 

Babb’s story ran in the Washington Post, and is about Anthony Giuliani, Rudy’s son, and his questionable job at the White House. 

Episode 97: Jason Fagone

Jason Fagone is a narrative writer for the San Francisco Chronicle who focuses on in-depth stories and investigations. His most recent piece is headlined “The Jessica Simulation.” It’s about a man who used a website that created chatbots to bring his dead girlfriend, or memories of her, back to life. 

“Joshua was able to use this website project assembler to create a custom chat bot simulation of his dead girlfriend Jessica, and he began to talk, have these very long, intense emotional conversations with this simulation of Jessica and then things go very weird,” he said.

Fagone joined the Chronicle in the fall of 2017 after a solid career of freelancing and book writing. He has been on the podcast before. Fagone was the guest on Episode 9 back in September 2013. At the time, we talked about some of his work in Philadelphia magazine, including a story about a cancer researcher who had a breakthrough discovery. We also talked about his book “Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring, and the Race to Revive America.”

Since that episode, Fagone has written two more books, giving him three in all. That includes “The Woman Who Smashed Codes,” which was released in 2017. Fagone has written for The New York Times Magazine, Wired, GQ, Huffington Post, and Mother Jones, among many other publications.

Episode 96: John Branch

John Branch is a sports reporter at the New York Times, and the author of “Sidecountry: Tales of Death and Life from the Back Roads of Sports.” The book was published on June 1 by W. W. Norton.

“Sidecountry” is a collection of stories Branch has written for the New York Times about sports and athletic activities that take place outside of the mainstream sports world. Included in the book is “Snow Fall,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2013.

There are other stories, like the one about a bowler who rolled his first perfect game and died just minutes later. Branch also includes his piece on a Rubik’s Cube competition (this story was anthologized in Best American Sports Writing 2019), and his series on the Lady Jaguars, a girls basketball team that never won a game. 

“I just love the idea of trying to illuminate a story that otherwise wouldn’t get illuminated,” Branch says. 

In 2010, Branch profiled the greatest horseshoe pitcher of all time, Alan Francis. Host Matt Tullis also profiled Francis in 2007 for the Columbus Dispatch, and later wrote about Francis’s main rival, Brian Simmons in 2012 for SB Nation. 

Branch has been at the New York Times since 2005. He won the Pulitzer in 2013, and was a finalist in 2012 for his series of stories on a professional hockey player who overdosed on painkillers. 

Sidecountry is Branch’s third book. “The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West” was published in 2018.

Episode 95: Travis M. Andrews

Travis M. Andrews is a features reporter at the Washington Post and the author of “Because He’s Jeff Goldblum: The Movies, Memes, and Meaning of Hollywood’s Most Enigmatic Actor.” The book was published by Plume on May 4.

The book is what Andrews calls a semi-biography, semi-celebration of Jeff Goldblum. It also looks into the shifting nature of fame and celebrity. The book came about after Andrews wrote a piece on Goldblum for the Post when the actor released his debut jazz album.

While Andrews didn’t talk with Goldblum for this book – the actor, or his publicist, passed, he did talk to upwards of 80 people who have worked with Goldblum. He also read every single interview that Goldblum’s given, and watched every single movie Goldblum has appeared in. 

Andrews writes for the Washington Post’s Style section, where he writes about the Internet, pop culture, and the ways we live now. He has recently written about Adam Sandler, Joe Rogan, and Andrew Yang. He often writes about TikTok, including a piece on the No. 1 TikTok poster in the world. 

Before joining the Post, Andrews was an associate travel and culture editor for Southern Living. He’s also written for Time, Esquire, GQ, and The Atlantic, among others. 

Episode 94: Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is the author “Why Peacocks? An Unlikely Search for Meaning in the World’s Most Magnificent Bird.” The book was published by Simon & Schuster, and went on sale on May 11.

Flynn’s book is certainly about peacocks, but also so much more. It’s a reported memoir that examines his life as a reporter and how it has impacted his family, and how the animals he takes care of fits into that. He gives credit for this book idea to his editor, Sean Manning.

Flynn has spent his life writing about traumatic events that involved other people. He won a National Magazine Award for his story “The Perfect Fire.” The story is about six firefighters who died in a warehouse fire in Massachusetts, and ran in the July 2000 issue of Esquire.

He’s written about Tamir Rice, the 12 year old Cleveland boy who police killed in a city park. He’s written about mass killings in New Zealand and Norway

Flynn has written three books. He’s a correspondent for GQ. Aside from books and magazine work, Flynn has also written for television, film, and audio.

Episode 93: Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a reporter, writer, producer, and host of the first season of a new podcast called The Opportunist. That first season was focused on a woman named Sherry Shriner, the leader of an online cult that believed most humans were alien reptiles out to kill them.

The Opportunist is produced by Kast Media. As a podcast, it will focus on true stories of regular people who turn sinister simply by being opportunistic. The second season is set to start in June.

Smith got started in the world of podcasting at Maximum Fun, working on comedy and interview podcasts. She worked on a parenting show called One Bad Mother, as well as the award-winning courtroom comedy Judge John Hodgman.

She’s worked in almost every kind of genre of podcasting, including news, comedy, audio drama, and narrative nonfiction. 

Smith is part of the Los Angeles live storytelling community, where she performs true stories from her own life. She is an Angelino who was raised in Middle America. This contrast of rural and urban, of culture and religion, informs her approach to storytelling.

Episode 92: Kevin Maurer

Kevin Maurer has written eight books, all of them focused on the military in some way. His most recent book is “Rock Force: The American Paratroopers Who Took Back Corregidor and Exacted MacArthur’s Revenge on Japan.” The book was published by Dutton Caliber.

In “Rock Force,” Maurer dives into one relatively small battle during World War II and shows us the men who were there. 

Maurer has frequently embedded with American soldiers. In 2003, he followed the 82nd Airborne Division during the initial invasion of Iraq and wrote articles for the Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina. 

He returned to cover the soldiers more than a dozen times, most recently in 2010, where he spent ten weeks with a Special Forces team in Afghanistan. 

In 2012, Maurer co-wrote, with a former Navy Seal, “No Easy Day: The First Hand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden.” That book was a New York Times best-seller.

Episode 91: Abbott Kahler

Abbott Kahler is the author of four books of historical narrative nonfiction. More recently, though, she wrote the story “How Sara Gruen Lost Her Life.” It was published simultaneously by New York magazine and The Marshall Project.

The piece is about how Gruen, the famed author of “Water for Elephants,” was left broke and seriously ill after fighting for six years to free an incarcerated man who she thought was innocent.

Kahler and Gruen are close friends. Kahler says it was cathartic for Gruen to talk about what she had been through. The story got a lot of traction when it was published on March 24, giving more attention to the case of Charles Murdoch, the man Gruen is trying to free.

This was definitely a different type of writing and reporting for Kahler. She’s made a name for herself as a New York Times best-selling author of historical narrative nonfiction. She’s done so under the name of Karen Abbott, although she legally changed her name in 2020, and will now write as Abbott Kahler.

Her first book, “Sin in the Second City,” is about two sisters who ran a famous brothel in Chicago in the early 1900s. Her book “Liar Temptress Soldier Spy” is about four women who worked undercover during the Civil War. Her most recent book, “The Ghosts of Eden Park,” is about a bootleg king in Cincinnati and a shocking murder in 1927. It was an Edgar Award finalist for best fact crime book.

Kahler has written for the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other publications. She also maintains the Wicked History Blog, which presents old photos and short reported pieces that describe the photos. She’s currently working on her fifth book, “Then Came the Devil.”