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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Brantley Hargrove is the author of “The Man Who Caught The Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras,” which was published by Simon & Schuster in April. The book is about a legendary storm chaser who, despite never going to college, was a hugely successful engineer who also managed to record the first meteorological data from inside a massive tornado.
The book has gotten rave reviews. Hampton Sides, the author of “In the Kingdom of Ice,” said that “The Man Who Caught the Storm” is “a thrilling tale of Promethean defiance.” The Washington Post said that Hargrove is “one of today’s best science writers” who “takes the reader not only on a journey through the remarkable life of engineer-explorer Samaras, but also through the beautifully desolate roads of the Plains while on the chase.”
Hargrove has written for Wired, Popular Mechanics, and Texas Monthly, among other publications. He’s gone inside the effort to reverse-engineer super tornadoes using super computers. He’s chased violent storms from the Great Plains to the Texas Coast. But he’s also done more than just write about devastating storms. He has also explored the world of South American jewel thieves who terrorize diamond dealers in South Florida.