James Swanson

End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

Original air date: June 6, 201497800620834871381610161

It’s been over 50 years since President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. The shooting and the irregular manner in which the Secret Service handled this day in Dallas, Texas has haunted the nation for five decades and spawned countless conspiracy theories.

My guest this week, best-selling author, James Swanson was in Richmond to present his newest book, End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy at the Junior League’s 2014 Book and Author dinner.  End of Days is an hour-by-hour, minute by minute and sometimes split-second chronicling of the facts surrounding the day that Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed the President of the United States, told like a true crime story.

On today’s show James Swanson will discuss how JFK’s approachable personality, the Secret Service’s egregious errors and one opportunistic maniac transformed a beautiful afternoon in Dallas to one of the darkest days in US history.

There are parts of this interview that are really disturbing, but necessary, and so, this program may not be suitable for sensitive listeners.

James Swanson is the Edgar Award-winning author of the New York Times bestsellers Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer and its sequel, Bloody Crimes: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Chase for Jefferson Davis. His other books include the award-winning bestseller for young adults Chasing Lincoln’s Killer. He was a recipient of a Historic Deerfield Fellowship in Early American History, and he serves on the advisory council of the Ford’s Theater Society. Swanson has degrees in history and in law from the University of Chicago and UCLA and has held a number of government and think-tank posts in Washington, D.C., including at the United States Department of Justice.

Listen to the show:

Lois Potter

The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography

Original air date: May 30, 20140631207848

My guest today, Lois Potter, taught Shakespeare at the University of Delaware for 17 years. We met at the University of Mary Washington, she was there to present Shakespeare at a Chapell Great Lives lecture. She said that most biographical writing, about him, since we know so little, is just creative speculation, pieced together from a few facts.

Her book, The Life of William Shakespeare, A Critical Biography, focuses on his literary and theatrical world.  Shakespeare wrote in Venus and Adonis,“Seeds spring from seeds, beauty breadth beauty.” In our conversation today, we talk for a bit about his education but Lois Potter and I mostly just stick to the arts because to discuss anything else would be just bringing up the muck.

Listen to the show:

Dan Harris

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story

Original air date: May 23, 201471YWAijk8DL

Dan Harris is the co-anchor of ABC News’ Nightline and the anchor of the weekend edition of Good Morning America. On June 7th 2004, Dan Harris had a panic attack, while delivering the headline news, on national television.

Well, actually, as you’ll hear, Dan Harris actually had two panic attacks on national television, after the second attack, he sought help to understand what was happening in his calm cool newscaster head.  This quest and perhaps, an inspired idea by Peter Jennings led him to write the book he’s here today to discuss. It’s called, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story.

I met with Dan Harris at the Jefferson Hotel. He was in Richmond to present his book at the Junior League’s Book and Author Dinner.

Listen to the show:

Marie Arana

Bolivar: American Liberator

Original air date: May 9, 2014bookworld_0171365019142

Simon Bolivar, the great liberator of South America led a revolution in the early part of the 1800’s to free his people from Spain’s colonial oppression. He is responsible for the formation of the republics of Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Equator, Panama, and Venezuela. Has a country, a city, and a currency named after him; he is honored in hundreds of statues and street names; he is the subject of more than 2600 volumes in the Library of Congress and it is astonishing that he is not better known in the United States.

Marie Arana presented her biography, Bolivar: American Liberator at the University of Mary Washington’s Chapell Great Lives lecture series. I met her there to discuss this fascinating man and her fantastic book.

Marie Arana is the former literary editor of The Washington Post. She has published four books: the memoir American Chica, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/ Martha Albrand Award; The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work; as well as two novels. She was Vice President and Senior Editor at both Harcourt Brace and Simon & Schuster publishers in New York. She was The Washington Post Editor-in-Chief for their book review section, “Book World” for ten years. Currently, she is a Writer-at-Large for The Washington Post, a guest op-ed columnist at the New York Times, and a senior consultant on hemispheric affairs to the Librarian of Congress.

Listen to the show:

Reeve Lindbergh

Under a Wing: A Memoir

Original air date: May 2, 2014Under a Wing

“In kindergarten, one of my brothers told a friend on the playground that our father had discovered America. At about the same age, I dreamed that he was God. The relief brought by that revelation shone upon me the next morning like the bright rays of dawn. If our father was God, it explained everything: why we called him “Father,” when all of our friends called their fathers “Daddy”; why he had so little contact with the other families around us, and yet so many people spoke about him with a kind of reverence; why we had to eat Pepperidge Farm bread at home rather than Wonder Bread; why the house shook when he was in a bad mood; and why I could find him in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  – from “Under a Wing”

Listen to the show:

Barry Strauss

The Spartacus War

Original air date: April 25, 2014


“A thrilling story that has inspired novelists and filmmakers: The real-life Spartacus is even more amazing than his fictional counterparts. A slave from Thrace (modern day Bulgaria), possibly of noble origins, he led a shocking rebellion at a gladiatorial school in Capua in 73 BC. Within two years the ranks of his army, which started with fewer than 100 men, swelled to 60,000; they routed nine Roman armies and for a time controlled all of southern Italy. The Roman general Crassus eventually defeated the slave army and while Spartacus apparently died on the field of battle, his body was never recovered. The legend arose that he escaped and remained undefeated..”

– from http://books.simonandschuster.com

Listen to the show:

Debby Applegate

The Most Famous Man in America:
The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher

Original air date: April 4, 2014DebbyApplegate

” No one predicted success for Henry Ward Beecher at his birth in 1813.  The blithe, boisterous son of the last great Puritan minister, he seemed destined to be overshadowed by his brilliant siblings – especially his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who penned the century’s best-selling book Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  But when pushed into the ministry, the charismatic Beecher found international fame by shedding his father’s Old Testament style fire-and-brimstone theology and instead preaching a New Testament based gospel of unconditional love and healing, becoming one of the founding fathers of modern American Christianity.  By the 1850s his spectacular sermons at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights had made him New York’s number one tourist attraction…”
– from themostfamousmaninamerica.com

Listen to the show:

Lee Smith

Guests on Earth

Original air date: March 28, 201491KUYGqvp3L._SL1500_

“Guests on Earth is set at Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, N.C., during the years 1936-1948, the year of the terrible fire in which Zelda Fitzgerald perished along with eight other women patients in a locked ward on the top floor. Her body was identified only by her charred ballet slipper—for the brilliant Zelda was still a talented dancer and choreographer as well as a writer and a visual artist. In this novel I offer a solution for the unsolved mystery of that fire, along with a group of characters both imagined and real, and a series of events leading up to the tragedy.” – from LeeSmith.com

Listen to the show:

Therese Anne Fowler

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Original air date: March 21, 201416002030

“When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it.”
– from thereseannefowler.com

Listen to the show:

Pat Shipman

Femme Fatale:
Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari

Original air date: March 7, 2014mata

In 1917, the notorious Oriental dancer Mata Hari was arrested on the charge of espionage; less than one year later, she was tried and executed, charged with the deaths of at least 50,000 gallant French soldiers. The mistress of many senior Allied officers and government officials, even the French minister of war, she had a sharp intellect and a golden tongue fluent in several languages; she also traveled widely throughout war-torn Europe, with seeming disregard for the political and strategic alliances and borders. But was she actually a spy? In this persuasive new biography, Pat Shipman explores the life and times of the mythic and deeply misunderstood dark-eyed siren to find the truth. – from HarperCollins.com

Listen to the show: