Episode 74: Amos Barshad

On this episode, I talk with Amos Barshad, the author of the book, “No One Man Should Have All That Power: How Rasputins Manipulate the World.” It was published by Abrams Press in April.

The book looks at the people in the shadows of the powerful who silently pull strings and wield their own power. It’s incredibly interesting and entertaining, covering Rasputins in everything from pop culture to crime, from professional sports to politics. It also covers the namesake Rasputin – Grigori Raputin, an almost mythical Russian mystic who had the ear and the trust of Prince Yusupof, until Rasputin was murdered.

Barshad was raised in Israel, the Netherlands and Massachusetts. He’s a former staff writer at The FADER and Grantland, and has written for The New Yorker, the New York Times, and Arkansas Times.

He had a piece in the New York Times in April about his grandmother, who in her own way, is a Rasputin herself.

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Wil S. Hylton (2014)

This episode is a rebroadcast of the interview Matt Tullis did Wil S. Hylton in March of 2014. At the time, the two talked about Hylton’s new book, Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II.

The book focuses for the modern-day search for one American bomber that crashed over the Pacific Islands during the war. That bomber carried 11 men, who for decades, were listed as missing in action.

When Hylton started the piece, he thought it was going to be a magazine piece. He had no idea it would expand into his first book.

“I never really imagined that I would write a book to be honest,” Hylton says. “I venerate the magazine form. I always have. To me, it’s the perfect gem-like distillation of a story, and it comes with all of its own special habits and history that are quite different from either doing fiction books or newspaper writing, broadly speaking. I just love it. This is the form that I’ve always wanted to work in, but what happened was this particular story forced me to try a new medium.”

On May 8, Hylton had a new magazine piece published by The New York Times Magazine. It was headlined “My Cousin Was My Hero. Until the Day He Tried to Kill Me.” It’s a brutal yet important piece that looks at toxic masculinity and how it impacts all of us, and how it nearly ended Hylton’s life.

Hylton opens up entirely about his own life in this piece, and it’s not always pretty. That’s what makes the essay so effective, and, hopefully, imactful.

Hylton’s work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, The New Yorker, Esquire, GQ, Rolling Stone, New York, and many other magazines. He has been selected for numerous anthologies, including The Best Music Writing, Best American Political Writing, Best Business Stories, and Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.

Episode 73: Philip Gerard

On this episode, host Matt Tullis talks with Philip Gerard, a professor in the Creative Writing Department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (Gerard was one of Tullis’s professors when he was in the MFA program at UNCW), and the author of a new book about the Civil War.

The Last Battleground: The Civil War Comes to North Carolina was published in March by the University of North Carolina Press. The book is an extension of a series of nonfiction narratives that Gerard was writing for Our State magazine.

Gerard is also the author of Cape Fear Rising, a novel that is set in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1898, a time when wealthy white residents massacred the growing and successful black culture in the city. That novel was originally published in 1994. Blair, the publisher, has reissued the book in a 25th anniversary edition, in part because so much of what is happening in the United States today mirrors Wilmington in 1898.

Gerard has written five novels and eight books of nonfiction. He’s written books like Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life and Writing a Book That Makes a Difference. He’s written nonfiction narrative books like Secret Soldiers: The Story of World War II’s Heroic Army of Deception and The Patron Saint of Dreams. And he’s written fiction. In addition to Cape Fear Rising, Gerard has also written the novels Hatteras Light and Desert Kill, among others.

Episode 72: The Other Side

This episode focuses on Eli Saslow’s story “Into the Lonely Quiet,” which was about one Newtown family whose son was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

But instead of focusing on the reporting aspect of the story, as Gangrey episodes typically do, this episode is focused on the story’s subjects and what it was like to open their lives up during a traumatic and horrific time in their lives.

This is also the first episode of Gangrey: The Podcast that is told in story form, and not through straight interview. It’s a complimentary audio piece tied to a written story that host Matt Tullis wrote for Nieman Storyboard.

In this episode, Tullis talks with Mark Barden, the father of Sandy Hook victim Daniel Barden, Nicole Hockley, the mother of Sandy Hook victim Dylan Hockley, and Eli Saslow.

Wright Thompson (2013)

On this episode, I’m going to replay an interview I did Wright Thompson back in October of 2013.

Thompson’s first book was just released by Penguin Books this week. It’s titled “The Cost of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business.” It consists of 14 of Thompson’s previously published stories for ESPN. That includes the two stories that I talked with Wright about on this episode of the show – “Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building,” and “The Losses of Dan Gable.”

Thompson’s profile on legendary wrestling coach Dan Gable is a perfect example of how and why reserved people open up to him.

The Dan Gable story came up right on the heels of Thompson’s profile of NBA legend Michael Jordan. That’s the story that leads of the book. With the Jordan story, Wright said he kept thinking of the classic Esquire profile on Ted Williams, which was written by Richard Ben Cramer. That story was titled “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now.”

“That story is very much a North Star, and the thing I’ve always wanted to do, always, is write that story,” Thompson says. “I knew going in that they’re only a couple of athletes famous enough to make that even possible.”

The book is fantastic, of course. And it’s no surprise to me that after one week of sales, it’s already showing up at No. 4 on the New York Times Best Seller list for paperback nonfiction.

Episode 71: Carson Vaughan

On this episode, host Matt Tullis talks with Carson Vaughan, the author of the “Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream,” which focuses on a small-town zoo in Royal, Nebraska, and its eventual downfall.

 Vaughan started reporting and writing this book as an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He then took the project to graduate school, where it was his master’s thesis in the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s MFA creative writing program. That’s the same program that Tullis graduated from in 2005.

“Zoo Nebraska” was published by Little A, an imprint of Amazon Publishing that focuses on literary fiction and nonfiction.

Vaughan is a freelance journalist who writes frequently about the Great Plains. He wrote “My Cousin, the Cowboy Poet” for the New Yorker. He’s also written for the New York Times, The Guardian, The Paris Review Daily, Outside, The Atlantic, Roads & Kingdoms, and Runner’s World, among others.

Episode 70: Michael Graff

On this episode, host Matt Tullis talks with Michael Graff. Graff was the guest on Episode 35, back in June of 2015. At the time, he was the editor of Charlotte Magazine. He was also writing for places like SB Nation Longform.

Now Graff is a freelance writer and editor. He recently published his first piece with ESPN.com, a story that focused on the life of former NBA legend Muggsy Bogues. That story, How Muggsy Bogues saved his brother’s life, and found the meaning of his own, explores the lives of two brothers, Muggsy, the superstar, and Chuckie, the older brother who spent many years battling drug addiction, but got clean once he started living with Muggsy.

While Graff is still doing a lot of reporting, he’s also started writing, and publishing, some incredibly moving and beautiful essays, including ones about a high school friend whose daughter battled childhood cancer and another about what happened when he tried to cut negative people out of his life.

In November, he had a wonderful essay titled “Longer Than the Song of the Whip-Poor-Will” published by the Oxford American.

Graff has written for ESPN, The Guardian, Garden & Gun, The Oxford American, Politico, SUCCESS, Washingtonian, Our State, and Southwest: The Magazine. He writes the monthly column for the back page of Charlotte magazine, where he was the editor from April 2013 to August 2017.