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That Moment When the Hardcover of Your Book Arrives

hardcover

 

THE MOST FAMOUS WRITER

WHO EVER LIVED

A True Story of My Family

By Tom Shroder

“The urge to investigate one’s origins is on powerful display in Shroder’s exploration of his famous grandfather, Pulitzer Prize–winning author MacKinlay “Mack” Kantor…. Shroder draws on family letters, photos, and stories; his own memory; and Mack’s papers at the Library of Congress, in the process realizing how little he really knew his complicated grandfather…. The book is more than a biographical excavation; it’s a journey of understanding. Shroder’s visceral reactions and moving discoveries as he comes to terms with his grandfather’s life make for a trip well worth taking.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“A grandson of writer MacKinlay Kantor (1904-1977) unravels the tangles of his grandfather’s life and finds many of those same threads (the good, the bad, the ugly) in his own life…. A compelling account, suffused with both sympathy and sharpness, of a writer who’s mostly forgotten and of a grandson who’s grateful.” Kirkus Reviews

Tom Shroder has accomplished something extraordinary. With equal measures sympathy and dispassion, he has investigated the life of his grandfather and used it as an unforgettable lesson in fickle fame and the contradictions of modern life.” —David Maraniss, Pulitzer-winning journalist and author of Once in a Great City, Barack Obama, and Clemente

 

“Tom Shroder’s account of his twisted-genius grandfather MacKinlay Kantor reminds us of the perils of fame, ego, self-love, and all-id living. The old man may not have been the Most Famous, but in the ‘50s, particularly after the great Andersonville, he was a writer god. As Shroder tells us in vivid detail, he was one of those beautiful monsters, charismatic from afar, beastly from up close, like Hemingway or John Ford. He was hardest of all on his family and his lack of grace left him to die alone; Shroder’s tale should give pause to everybody who thinks he’s better than he is—that is, everybody.” —Stephen Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of the Bob Lee Swagger series

 

In THE MOST FAMOUS WRITER WHO EVER LIVED (Blue Rider Press; October 4, 2016; $28.00), noted author and journalist Tom Shroder unveils the unexpected life of his grandfather MacKinlay Kantor, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the seminal Civil War novel, Andersonville. As genealogy captures our collective interest—it is the second most popular American hobby after gardening, and the second most visited category of websites after pornography—Shroder launches an investigation into his own lineage that explores the rise and fall of literary celebrity, and the fleeting, ephemeral nature of fame.

Shroder’s career as an investigative journalist, writer of human interest stories, and editor of the Washington Post Magazine—which has taken him from interviewing children who believe they’ve had past lives in Old Souls, to examining the life of a former Marine being treated for PTSD through the use of psychedelic drugs in Acid Test—never prepared him for his most fascinating story: that of his larger-than-life grandfather, MacKinlay Kantor. What secrets, what forgotten calamities and unremembered truths, could be pried from more than 158 boxes filled with 50,000 items at the Library of Congress? What, ultimately, would Shroder learn about his family and himself?

Fame aside, Kantor suffered from alcoholism, an outsized ego, and an episodically overbearing, abusive and publically embarrassing personality where his family was concerned. He blew through several small fortunes in his lifetime, dying nearly destitute and alone. Shroder revisits the past, revealing Kantor’s upbringing, early struggles, and career trajectory—and writes not just the life story of one man but a meditation on fame, family secrets and legacies, and what is remembered after we are gone.

A special 60th anniversary edition of ANDERSONVILLE (Plume; On-sale 9/9/16; 9780147515377; $26) will be released this fall from Plume Books, timed to this year’s 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s end.

 

About the Author:

Tom Shroder is an award-winning journalist, editor and author of Old Souls and Acid Test, a transformative look at the therapeutic powers of psychedelic drugs in the treatment of PTSD. As editor of the Washington Post Magazine, he conceived and edited two Pulitzer Prize-winning feature stories. His most recent editing project, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte, was a New York Times bestseller.

 

Contact: Suzanne Williams, Shreve Williams Public Relations

908.375.8159 / [email protected]

Mary Pomponio, Blue Rider Press

212.366.2218 / [email protected]

 

Richard Thompson, RIP

Richard ThompsonA genius is someone who looks at the same thing you do, and sees something infinitely more wonderful. That was Richard Thompson. It was one of the great honors of my journalistic career to have had a chance to work with him and laugh at the truly funny things he said and the even funnier things he drew and, once about every two years, even have lunch with him. There’s no measurement that can assess how much we have lost with his death. Read this obituary by Michael Cavna, who knew and loved Richard so well.

Hot Off the Design Table

Book jacket blurbs

First Blurb for The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived

“Tom Shroder set out to understand the life of his once-famous grandfather, best-selling author MacKinlay Kantor. But what started as an attempt to rescue an illustrious ancestor from obscurity turns into a far more intimate and compelling journey into the meaning of fame, family, creativity and the things we carry from childhood to the grave. Shroder introduces us to many fascinating characters—from Kantor himself, to Ernest Hemingway, to Shroder’s larcenous great-grandfather. In the end, however, the character whom Shroder truly discovers is himself, a writer who comes to cherish just how much he owes the grandfather he never really knew.”
—Glenn Frankel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend

Capture

The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived, Uncovered

When your publisher sends you an email with the early designs for your cover, that manuscript you’ve been sweating over for months or years suddenly becomes a book, something that will one day, and for years to come, look out at you from a bookshelf, or a book store, or an Amazon listing, becoming a permanent part of who you are, almost like a snapshot of a child. In some ways, it’s an even more exciting moment than when the first copies arrive in a box at your door — because by then you already know what it will look like. Seeing a cover design for the first time is a revelation. Everything after that is just confirmation.

 

 

 

A Course in Miracles

Jon Berry of the New College program at the University of Alabama is using Acid Test to teach the history of psychedelic therapy to some very engaged students. Here’s the course listing:

NEW 490 – 320 Psychedelics: From Stoned Ape to the FDA (CRN 13341) Spring 2016—Jonathan G. Berry—Tuesdays 7:00–9:50 pm—Lloyd 319 Course Description and Objectives This course will look at the history of psychedelic substances and plants beginning with theories of their earliest protohuman usage to the current FDA approved psychotherapeutic studies. As these substances continue to increase in both sanctioned and unsanctioned use, it is important that we educate ourselves about their role in the development of human language, consciousness, and culture as well as their potential to heal when used in responsible clinical settings. Special attention will be paid to the misuse of these substances during the revolution of the 1960s and their continued misuse in a variety of settings. The question of responsible clinical and religious use of a variety of psychedelic compounds and plants will also be discussed. Learning Outcomes An understanding of 1) the history of psychedelic substances and plants, 2) their possible place in human evolution and the development of human language, 3) their role in early shamanic cultures and the development of religious and spiritual systems, 4) the decline of their use with the growth of large cultural centers and mass religious movements, and 5) their resurgence in the past century in social, artistic, and spiritual movements, and finally their psychotherapeutic usages. There are no prerequisites for this course. This is a New College seminar. New College seminars are highly interactive courses that enable students to critically engage content in responsible ways. Each seminar is designed to explore interdisciplinary approaches to a particular issue, theme, or problem. All New College seminars include the following: • Student-led discussion • A research task • Meaningful and active in-class engagement with course materials • A range of learning activities • Multiple forms of evaluation and assessment • Oral and writing communication • Complex and critical thinking opportunities • Reading and writing as essential components of the class Instructor Information Jonathan G. Berry 224 McMillan 205-239-7016 (text or call) ● [email protected] Office Hours: Wednesday afternoons 4:00 to 6:00. Please contact me to confirm availability. I’m also available by appointment. Required Text for the Course Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal.

Where Book Ideas Come From

I’m currently engaging in that ritual of publishing, filling out the “Author Questionnaire” my publisher’s marketing department seeks for my upcoming book The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived — an essentially hopeful act imagining all the vast audiences who theoretically will run on book stores and internet retail sites to purchase multiple copies, and all the media who will devote yards of type and gigabytes of content to cover it. Here I’ll share just  one of the 53 items on the questionnaire (I live to spell this word) and my response to it:

  1.  31. Please write a paragraph or two on how you came to write this book — including any interesting or newsworthy anecdotes about researching it, writing it, or getting it published.

Until two years ago, I had spent my entire life dismissing, ignoring, or denying my mother’s attempts to impress on me the significance of her father. His many books on my bookshelf went unread. The boxes and boxes of photos and letters my mother kept for decades were felt only as dead weight. When my mother died, if it hadn’t been for my sister’s stubborn insistence, they all would have been headed to the incinerator. For 17 years, I have lived within 25 miles of a repository of 50,000 items consisting of many hundreds of thousands of pages documenting every aspect of my grandfather’s life in shockingly intimate detail, and yet it never occurred to me it might be interesting to look into those 148 boxes sitting in federal storage space in the Library of Congress. As I neared the age of 60, with old age and death peeking ominously over the horizon, I began to wonder increasingly about my grandfather, and his influence on my life and career. Again and again questions formed in my mind, only to butt up against the reality that all those who could have so easily answered them were gone, and that the knowledge itself was vanishing from the face of the earth. I knew that many, if not most people face that same sad irony at some point in their lives. And then the bulb lit in my mind: I had a unique advantage, the mountain of material that would answer all my questions, and many more I never could have imagined.

Ironically, after two years of intensive research and reading in the world’s greatest library, of going through all those boxes my sister had clung to after our mother’s death, just as I was finishing the manuscript for the book, I made one final discovery that would shine a unique light on all that I had learned – in the unlit far corner of my own basement closet.

The First News Coverage of The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived

I guess I’ll actually have to write it now.

 

Thanks to this nice little piece in the Webster City Daily Freeman-Journal.

A Small Town In My Mind

Effie, Virginia and Mack Kantor, ca 1917 Webster City

As I work on a book about exploring the life and career of my grandfather, I’ll be following in his footsteps in a more concrete way, by returning to his childhood home, which was so important in his life and work, and doing exactly what he did there on many occasions: talking about his life and the pursuit of a career in writing. I’ll be doing a series of talks in Webster City Iowa April 23-25.

Speaking In Boston

I will be speaking at Northeastern University in Boston, Friday April 3 beginning at 7 p.m. This is open to the public, and includes other speakers on the subject of psychedelic medicine as well. If you are in the Boston area, please stop in.