Episode 83: Alex Belth

Alex Belth is the curator of The Stacks Reader and the editor of Esquire Classic. He’s also the creator of Bronx Banter, a website that focuses on New York City sports, arts and culture and more.

The Stacks Reader is a treasure trove of classic magazine journalism and other writing that otherwise might be lost to history. Belth has built this archive largely by himself, reaching out to writers and their families and obtaining the rights to republish.

Most recently, Belth has been adding stories to The Stacks Reader written by Ron Rosenbaum, who has written for The Village Voice, Esquire, Harper’s, Vanity Fair, and many more publications.

There are stories in The Stacks Reader that go all the way back to 1932, like Westbrook Pegler’s Chicago Tribune story headlined “The Called Shot Heard Round the World.”

One of the writer’s whose work has been preserved on the site is a man named O’Connell Driscoll. Driscoll’s first magazine piece was a 13,000 word profile of Jerry Lewis. He wrote it for Playboy, while he was still in college.

Belth recently received the 2020 Tony Salin Memorial Award from The Baseball Reliquary. He was honored for his work on The Stacks Reader and Esquire Classic, as well as his own baseball writing. 

He wrote “Stepping Up,” a biography of St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Curt Flood. In 2012, he wrote the essay “The Two Rogers” for SB Nation Longform. That piece was about the death of Belth’s father, but also the writings of Roger Kahn and Roger Angell. 

Belth was included in Best American Sports Writing 2012 for his Deadspin story on sportswriter George Kimball. He often writes for Esquire.com, including a piece on Tim O’Brien and his latest book, “Dad’s Maybe Book.

Episode 81: Kim Cross

Kim Cross is a freelancer who writes for a number of publications. Most recently, Bicycling Magazine published her story “Noel and Leon: What Happens When Two Strangers Trust the Rides of Their Lives to the Magic of the Universe.” 

The story is about two bicyclists who were riding in opposite directions on thousand-mile journeys. They just so happened to cross paths in the middle of a desert. Cross first heard about these two men five years ago, and fought long and hard to find a home for the story.

This is the second time Cross has been on the podcast. She was on in September 2015, when we talked about her book What Stands in the Storm: A True Story of Love and Resilience in the Worst Superstorm in History. 

Cross has written for a number of publications, including ESPN, Outside, Bicycling Magazine, Garden and Gun, and more. She has been included in Best American Sports Writing twice, including in 2019, for her story “The Redemption of Artis Monroe.”

Episode 80: Eva Holland

Eva Holland is the author of the book “Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear.” 

Nerve is a hybrid of memoir and reported science. It’s focused on Holland encountering and overcoming the things she was most fearful of, and the science behind it all.

The book came about after a few things happened back in 2015. First, Holland’s mom died unexpectedly. That was one of Holland’s greatest fears in life. And then, she was in a series of serious car crashes. 

“I rolled my car into a ditch in April 2016, and I had been thinking about the idea of a book about fear actually that day while I was driving on the highway,” Holland says. “That night in the hospital, I was like, yeah, okay, you’ve got to do the book about this now because obviously the universe is sending you some kind of sign.”

This is Holland’s first book. Most of what she has done as a writer over the last decade are magazine pieces. She is a successful freelance writer, working as a correspondent for Outside magazine. She’s also written for Esquire, including a piece that helped pave the way to the book, Wired, Pacific Standard, AFAR, Smithsonian, and National Geographic News

This is Holland’s second visit to Gangrey: The Podcast. She was on the show back in March 2014

Nerve goes on sale on April 14.

Episode 77: New Stories We Tell

This episode features clips from four of the women included in the new anthology, “New Stories We Tell: True Tales by America’s New Generation of Great Women Journalists.” The book was recently published by The Sager Group.

The book is the third in a series of anthologies celebrating women in longform journalism, featuring more than 50 great writers from the 1950s to the present. The first was “Newswomen: Twenty-Five Years of Front Page Journalism,” and was published in 2016. That book was followed two years later by “The Stories We Tell: Classic True Tales By America’s Greatest Women Journalists.”

Four reporters who have been on the podcast are included in the new book: Pamela Colloff, Vanessa Grigoriadis, Janet Reitman, and Brooke Jarvis. Additionally, the book’s editors, Kaylen Ralph and Joanna Demkiewicz, have been guests on the podcast. They helped with “Newswomen,” and talked about that book in 2016. They are the editors of “New Stories We Tell.”

In this episode, you’ll hear from them, as well as clips from Colloff, Grigoriadis, Reitman, and Jarvis. You’ll also hear from Mike Sager, the founder and publisher of The Sager Group.

Clips came from the following episodes:

• Pamela Colloff, Episodes Three and 63

• Vanessa Grigoriadis, Episodes 30 and 55

• Janet Reitman, Episode 10

• Brooke Jarvis, Episode 33

• Kaylen Ralph and Joanna Demkiewicz, Episode 44

Kim Cross (2015)

This episode is a rebroadcast of the interview Matt Tullis did with Kim Cross in September 2015. Cross’s book “What Stands in the Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley” had been published by Atria Books in March of that year. The book is a reporting and writing masterpiece, as Cross went to great lengths to make sure the reporting was accurate, and the writing was compelling.

Since joining the podcast, Cross been included in Best American Sports Writing twice. She was included in the 2016 edition for her story The King of Tides, which ran in Southwest: The Magazine. And this year, Cross will be in BASW 2019 for a story she wrote for Bicycling Magazine. That story is about a prisoner in California who spends his time restoring used bicycles.

Cross has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of American Travel Writers. Her work has appeared in Outside, Southern Living, Cooking Light, SB Nation Longform, Bicycling, Runner’s World, the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, and many more publications.

Episode 76: Rachel Monroe

On this episode, Rachel Monroe talks with host Matt Tullis. Monroe’s first book, Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime and Obsession, was published by Scribner. It went on sale today, August 19.

 The book tells the stories of four true crimes that had women intimately involved in them, but all in different capacities. 

Monroe is a freelance writer based in Marfa, Texas. She also serves as a volunteer firefighter there. She’s written about crime, communes, utopias, drones, small town, firefighters, haunted houses, really just about everything. 

She was a finalist for a Livingston Award for Young Journalists in 2016 and was named one of 56 women journalists everyone should read by New York Magazine.

She’s been published by The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Outside Magazine, The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, and Esquire, among many others. Her essay about murder, fandom, and adolescence, “Outside the Manson Pinkberry” was originally published in The Believer, and was anthologized in The Best American Travel Writing 2018.

Episode 75: Latria Graham

On this episode, host Matt Tullis talked with Latria Graham, a writer, editor and cultural critic currently living in South Carolina.

Graham’s writing revolves around the dynamics of race, gender norms, class, nerd culture, and sports. Back in 2016, she wrote one of the last pieces for SB Nation Longform. That piece was headlined “The Dark Knight Unmasked,” and was about the Carolina Panther’s Josh Norman.

Graham has also written some important pieces about race for The Establishment, which is no longer publishing. Fortunately, they’ve kept their stories online. One of those pieces was an essay written by Graham titled “Why, As A Black Woman, I Finally Decided To Take To The Streets.”

Graham’s first published piece ran on Ebony’s website. That was in May of 2013, and was about her struggles with bulimia.

Graham has written for ESPNW, Outside Magazine, Bicycling Magazine, the Guardian, Our State Magazine, Garden & Gun, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and many other publications.

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.

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.

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.