Episode 95: Travis M. Andrews

Travis M. Andrews is a features reporter at the Washington Post and the author of “Because He’s Jeff Goldblum: The Movies, Memes, and Meaning of Hollywood’s Most Enigmatic Actor.” The book was published by Plume on May 4.

The book is what Andrews calls a semi-biography, semi-celebration of Jeff Goldblum. It also looks into the shifting nature of fame and celebrity. The book came about after Andrews wrote a piece on Goldblum for the Post when the actor released his debut jazz album.

While Andrews didn’t talk with Goldblum for this book – the actor, or his publicist, passed, he did talk to upwards of 80 people who have worked with Goldblum. He also read every single interview that Goldblum’s given, and watched every single movie Goldblum has appeared in. 

Andrews writes for the Washington Post’s Style section, where he writes about the Internet, pop culture, and the ways we live now. He has recently written about Adam Sandler, Joe Rogan, and Andrew Yang. He often writes about TikTok, including a piece on the No. 1 TikTok poster in the world. 

Before joining the Post, Andrews was an associate travel and culture editor for Southern Living. He’s also written for Time, Esquire, GQ, and The Atlantic, among others. 

Episode 93: Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a reporter, writer, producer, and host of the first season of a new podcast called The Opportunist. That first season was focused on a woman named Sherry Shriner, the leader of an online cult that believed most humans were alien reptiles out to kill them.

The Opportunist is produced by Kast Media. As a podcast, it will focus on true stories of regular people who turn sinister simply by being opportunistic. The second season is set to start in June.

Smith got started in the world of podcasting at Maximum Fun, working on comedy and interview podcasts. She worked on a parenting show called One Bad Mother, as well as the award-winning courtroom comedy Judge John Hodgman.

She’s worked in almost every kind of genre of podcasting, including news, comedy, audio drama, and narrative nonfiction. 

Smith is part of the Los Angeles live storytelling community, where she performs true stories from her own life. She is an Angelino who was raised in Middle America. This contrast of rural and urban, of culture and religion, informs her approach to storytelling.

Episode 91: Abbott Kahler

Abbott Kahler is the author of four books of historical narrative nonfiction. More recently, though, she wrote the story “How Sara Gruen Lost Her Life.” It was published simultaneously by New York magazine and The Marshall Project.

The piece is about how Gruen, the famed author of “Water for Elephants,” was left broke and seriously ill after fighting for six years to free an incarcerated man who she thought was innocent.

Kahler and Gruen are close friends. Kahler says it was cathartic for Gruen to talk about what she had been through. The story got a lot of traction when it was published on March 24, giving more attention to the case of Charles Murdoch, the man Gruen is trying to free.

This was definitely a different type of writing and reporting for Kahler. She’s made a name for herself as a New York Times best-selling author of historical narrative nonfiction. She’s done so under the name of Karen Abbott, although she legally changed her name in 2020, and will now write as Abbott Kahler.

Her first book, “Sin in the Second City,” is about two sisters who ran a famous brothel in Chicago in the early 1900s. Her book “Liar Temptress Soldier Spy” is about four women who worked undercover during the Civil War. Her most recent book, “The Ghosts of Eden Park,” is about a bootleg king in Cincinnati and a shocking murder in 1927. It was an Edgar Award finalist for best fact crime book.

Kahler has written for the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other publications. She also maintains the Wicked History Blog, which presents old photos and short reported pieces that describe the photos. She’s currently working on her fifth book, “Then Came the Devil.”

Episode 90: Elon Green

Elon Green is the author of “Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York.” The book was published by Celadon Books earlier this month. 

The book is about men who were picked up in piano bars in New York City in the early 1990s, and then killed, dismembered and left outside the city. The book is about the lives those men led. 

“Last Call” was recently reviewed in the New York Times Book Review.

Green did a massive amount of reporting in order to write this book. He gathered trial transcripts, massive amounts of police files, and documents handed over by friends and family members. He also interviewed about 160 people, some of them many times. 

Green has written for the New York Times Magazine, The Awl, and New York. He’s been anthologized in Unspeakable Acts, which was edited by Sarah Weinman. She was a guest of the podcast on Episode 69. He recently published a piece in The Appeal headlined “The Dissenter.” That story is about former Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. Green has also been an editor at Longform since 2011.

In 2013 and 2014, he did Annotation interviews with some of the best literary journalists of all time, including reporters like Tom Wolfe, Mike Sager, John Jeremiah Sullivan, and Gay Talese. He did those for Nieman Storyboard

Episode 88: Mirin Fader

This episode features Mirin Fader, a new staff writer for The Ringer. Prior to joining The Ringer, Fader spent four years writing for Bleacher Report’s BR Mag

On January 14, The Ringer published her story “Davante Adams is Peaking in Every Way Possible.” The profile of the all-pro wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers was her first piece for The Ringer.

The story goes deep behind the scenes of Adam’s life. That’s something that doesn’t happen often in profiles of star athletes. Fader spent a great deal of time talking with Adams, his wife, and his mother, and came away with a story that shows exactly how the wide receiver has been impacted by becoming a father.

In Fader’s last year at Bleacher Report, she wrote two pieces about the heart-breaking deaths of two athletes. One of those stories was focused on Gigi Bryant, Kobe’s daughter, who died in the helicopter crash one year ago. The other story was about California Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2019. Fader said learned so much about empathy in reporting those pieces. 

Fader has been noted in Best American Sports Writing twice. She was also a finalist for the Dan Jenkins Medal in 2020. 

She is currently writing a book about Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. That book will be released in August 2021 by Hachette Books.

Episode 85: Wright Thompson

Wright Thompson is a senior writer at ESPN, and the author of Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things that Last. That book just came out earlier this week. It’s published by Penguin Press.

Pappyland had a strange route to publication. It was initially supposed to be a book Thompson ghost-wrote for Julian Van Winkle. Van Winkle is a bourbon genius who found a way to rebuild a business that was built by his grandfather and lost by his father. 

In the process, he’s created a bourbon that people pay more than $3,000 a bottle for.

But ultimately, Thompson saw the book become something more, a book about a man who makes bourbon, and one who drinks it.

The book is also about fatherhood. It’s about both Thompson’s father, who passed away several years ago, and Thompson, who in the book, is in the process of becoming a father. 

It’s almost magical that just five days before Pappyland was released, Thompson’s second daughter was born.

Pappyland is actually Thompson’s second book. His first, The Cost of These Dreams, is an anthology of his best work from ESPN. He’s still writing longform narrative pieces for ESPN. He’s also producing the TV series True South, which focuses on southern food and culture. The show airs on the SEC Network.

Thompson was a guest in the early days of the podcast. He was featured on Episode 11 in October 2013. At the time, we talked about his profiles of Michael Jordan and legendary wrestling coach Dan Gable.

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 82: Chris Jones

Back in November, podcast host Matt Tullis talked with Chris Jones. Tullis wanted to talk with him about writing for a book he’s working on, a book focused on how to report and write narrative journalism. 

Tullis talked with Jones about writing for about 30 minutes. They talked about how Jones wrote “The Things That Carried Him,” which Jones won a National Magazine Award for in 2009. They talked about his Zanesville zoo story and his Roger Ebert profile and his Kenneth Feinberg profile

They also talked about Jones making the move to screenwriting. 

Jones made quite a career for himself at Esquire. He was regularly included in Best American Sports Writing for work he did for ESPN The Magazine. Now he’s a writer for the Netflix show Away. The show is loosely based on Jone’s Esquire story with the same title. That show will likely be released later this year.

Jones was on the podcast back in January 2014. At the time, he talked about his Feinberg piece, as well as a story he wrote about what happened on Air Force One immediately after President John F. Kennedy was killed.

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 is now available.