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 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.

Michael Brick Tribute (2016)

On this episode, we’re rebroadcasting an interview Matt Tullis did with Ben Montgomery, Thomas Lake, Michael Kruse, Wright Thompson, and Tony Rehagen, about the late, great Michael Brick.

Brick died on February 8, 2016 after battling colon cancer. We’re approaching the third anniversary of Brick’s death, but his name and his amazing work lives on because a book of his stories — “Everyone Leaves Behind a Name” — was put together by the guests on this show and others, and then published by The Sager Group.

The stories included in “Everyone Leaves Behind a Name” were originally published in The New York Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, Harper’s Magazine, and others. Brick also wrote the book “Saving the School,” which was published by Penguin Press in 2012.

Everyone Leaves Behind a Name is still available on The Sager Group’s website. It’s also available on Amazon.com. All proceeds from book sales go to Brick’s family.

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.

Janet Reitman (2013)

On this episode, we’re rebroadcasting an interview that Matt Tullis did with Janet Reitman in October 2013. During this episode, Tullis and Reitman talked about her story, “Jahar’s World,” which ran in the Rolling Stone. The story was about Jahar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers.

Rolling Stone was criticized at the time because they put a glossy photo of Tsarnaev on the cover. But journalistically, the story that Reitman wrote was lauded as an excellent piece of reporting and writing, including by the New York Times’ David Carr.

Reitman is being lauded again because of a piece she reported and wrote for the New York Times Magazine. The story, “U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It.” was published in early November.

A few days after the story was published, Terry Gross interviewed Reitman for Fresh Air on National Public Radio.

Reitman is a contributing writer for the New York Times, and a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. She is also the author of the book, “Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion.”

Episode 66: Brin-Jonathan Butler

On this episode, host Matt Tullis talks with Brin-Jonathan Butler. Butler wrote the book, The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match that Made Chess Great Again, which will be released on November 6. The book takes a look at the 2016 World Chess Championship, which was held in New York City just before the 2016 election. It also dives deep into the type of personality needed to be a chess champion.

Butler’s first book, The Domino Diaries: My Decade Boxing With Olympic Champions and Chasing Hemingway’s Ghost in the Last Days of Castro’s Cuba, was shortlisted for the PEN/ESPN Award for literary sports writing, and was a Boston Globe Best Book of 2015.

His story, “Ghost of Capablanca,” published by Southwest: The Magazine, was included in the 2018 Best American Travel Writing. He’s also been a notable selection in that book, as well as Best American Sports Writing, multiple times.

Butler has written for Esquire, Bloomberg, ESPN The Magazine, Playboy, Harper’s, the Paris Review, and Roads and Kingdoms.