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.

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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 69: Sarah Weinman

On this episode, Matt Tullis talked with Sarah Weinman, the author of “The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World,” which was published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers in September.

The book is a gripping true-crime investigation into the 1948 abduction of Sally Horner and how it inspired Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel, “Lolita.”

Weinman regularly writes pieces of true crime longform, having been published by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Republic, the Guardian, and Buzzfeed, among others. She also covers book publishing for Publishers Marketplace.

Weinman is the editor of the books “Troubled Daughters, Twisted Lives,” and of “Women Crime Writers: Eight suspense Novels of the 1940s and 50s.

Episode 68: Brendan O’Meara

On this episode, Matt Tullis talks with Brendan O’Meara. O’Meara is the host of the Creative Nonfiction Podcast. On that show, he talks to writers, filmmakers, producers, and podcasters who he admires. They talk about the art and craft of telling true stories, unpacking their origin stories as well as tips and habits so that listeners can apply those tools in their own work.

Tullis was a guest on the Creative Nonfiction Podcast back in September of 2017, when O’Meara talked with him about his memoir, Running With Ghosts. Recently, O’Meara hosted Glenn Stout, who talked about his new book, The Pats: An Illustrated History of the New England Patriots, which was just released.

O’Meara is also a reporter and a writer. In 2016, he published the story “The Day That Never Comes” in the online magazine Proximity. That story, which we talk about in this episode, ultimately won Proximity’s Narrative Journalism prize for the year it was published. He is also the author of Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year.

Episode 67: Ben Montgomery

Ben Montgomery is the author of “The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer’s Search For Meaning in the Great Depression.” The book was published by Little, Brown Spark in September, and tells the story of a man named Plennie Wingo, who in 1931, attempted to walk around the world, backward.

This is the third time Montgomery has been on the podcast. He was the guest on Episode 21, when he talked about his first book, “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail.” That book went on to become a New York Times Bestseller.

He was also one of five guests on Episode 45, which was focused on the work of the late Michael Brick, which was contained in the book, “Everyone Leaves Behind a Name.” The other guests on that show were Wright Thompson, Michael Kruse, Tony Rehagen, and Thomas Lake.

Montgomery created the website gangrey.com, which was the namesake for this podcast. For years, he was one of the top enterprise reporters at the Tampa Bay Times, where he wrote about everything from one of the last spectacle lynchings in Florida to why cops shoot at suspects.

He left the Tampa Bay Times in October 2017 to focus on writing “The Man Who Walked Backward.” Now, he finds himself teaching student journalists at the University of Montana as the T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Visiting Professor.

Montgomery’s latest book is his third. His second book was titled “The Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War II.”

He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting in 2010 for his series of stories on the decades of abuse at a Florida reform school for boys. He won the Dart Award and Casey Medal for the same series.

Episode 65: Jeff Pearlman

Jeff Pearlman is the author of “Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL.” The book takes a deep dive into the United States Football League, which existed from 1983 to 1985. The league existed when Pearlman was a kid, and he was in love with it. The book is something that Pearlman has called a labor of love.

Pearlman interviewed 430 people for this book. Only two people with ties to the USFL that he reached out to refused to talk to him. One of those people was Donald Trump. Trump was the owner of the New Jersey Generals in 1984 and 85. Pearlman was doing the reporting for this book during the 2016 election season. One thing he started realizing was the Trump was making the same types of promises as a presidential candidate, as he did as a USFL owner. That includes the time he signed quarterback Doug Flutie to a huge contract, and then sent a letter to the other owners of the league, telling them all that they had to actually pay for Flutie themselves.

“Football For A Buck” is Pearlman’s eighth book. He’s written books about Walter Payton, the 1986 New York MetsBrett Favre, and the Los Angeles Lakers Showtime years. He currently writes a weekly column for The Athletic, and is a former senior writer for Sports Illustrated. He’s also written for ESPN.com, Bleacher Report, and many others.

Pearlman is also the guest editor for this year’s edition of The Best American Sports Writing. The series editor of that annual anthology is Glenn Stout, who has twice been a guest on the podcast.