GARY M. POMERANTZ is a nonfiction author and journalist, and has served the past seven years as a visiting lecturer in the Department of Communication at Stanford University. His fifth and newest nonfiction book, Their Life's Work, a narrative about the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty, follows this storied team across the decades and examines what the game of football gives to players, and takes from them. It will be published this fall by Simon & Schuster.
Pomerantz spent 17 years as a daily journalist (1982-1999), first as a sportswriter for The Washington Post where he covered Georgetown University basketball, the Washington Redskins and the National Football League, and later at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he wrote about race, sports, culture and politics, and served for a time on the newspaper's editorial board. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and other publications.
His first book, Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn (Scribner, 1996), a multi-generational biography of Atlanta and its racial conscience, was named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times, and a finalist for Non-Fiction Book of the Year by the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tenn. The New York Times Sunday Book Review hailed Peachtree as "a magnificent piece of writing, a beautiful tapestry of prose in which the stories of two of Atlanta's most celebrated families have been woven densely into the history of the city itself." USA TODAY called it "the definitive history of Atlanta's turmoil and triumph from the Civil War until now." The Georgia Center for the Book in May 2005, in an attempt to enhance public appreciation of Georgia's rich literary tradition, selected Peachtree among 25 books that "All Georgians Should Read," along with works by Pat Conroy, Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor.
Pomerantz's second non-fiction work, Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds (Crown, 2001), chronicled the lives of 29 people aboard an ill-fated commuter flight in 1995 and was described by Kirkus Reviews in a starred review as "a heart in your throat story . . . Spellbinding." Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds has also been published to acclaim in Germany, Britain and China. The London Evening Standard called the book "a flawlessly constructed narrative . . . a masterpiece of non-fiction storytelling."
WILT, 1962, (Crown, 2005), Pomerantz's third book, returned him to his sports-writing roots with a vivid narrative that recreated one of basketball's most remarkable performances, the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pa. WILT, 1962 is a portrait of a fabled game, a celebrated player known as The Big Dipper, and the nation on the cusp of social and cultural revolution. Named an Editors' Choice book by The New York Times, WILT, 1962 was called by Entertainment Weekly "a meticulous and engaging narrative – a slam dunk of a read." For the 50th anniversary of Chamberlain's 100-point game in March 2012, Pomerantz appeared on ESPN's "Outside The Lines," National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," and in an hour-long documentary, "Wilt, 100," produced by NBA Entertainment.
His fourth book, The Devil’s Tickets (Crown, 2009; Three Rivers Press paperback, 2011) is a narrative from the Roaring Twenties about a sensational killing and murder trial in Kansas City and the contract bridge craze that swept America. When housewife Myrtle Bennett shot and killed her husband Jack after a spat during a social bridge game with neighbors in 1929, she hired as her defense attorney Senator James A. Reed, a Democratic presidential candidate. Watching from New York, the tuxedoed P.T. Barnum of the bridge craze, a cunning, spotlessly-manicured Russian named Ely Culbertson, exploited the Bennett tragedy to sell bridge, his bridge instruction books, and himself. USA TODAY calls The Devil's Tickets "an irresistible summer read," and National Public Radio hails it as "deliciously detailed and splendidly written." The Kansas City Star writes, "This is history with a whole lineup of compelling characters . . . Pomerantz handles it all with a stirring sense of story and human behavior."
A 1982 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, with a bachelor's degree in history, Pomerantz was named as a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan in 1987-88; there he studied theater and the Bible. Later he served from 1999-2001 as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at Emory University in Atlanta where he taught courses on news reporting and writing, and on the history of the American press. A number of his former students work in the media today.
The American Journalism Review has placed Pomerantz among a select group of journalists "whose techniques produce imaginative, technically accurate, and thoroughly documented stories that fall into the broad category of literary journalism." He has captured numerous journalism honors, including the Ernie Pyle Award, the nation's top honor for human interest writing awarded by the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi national award for feature writing. Pomerantz has been acknowledged by The American Editor magazine (Oct / Nov 1998) for his distinguished writing about race relations, and also by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Pomerantz has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio programs, including The CBS Early Show, CNN Sunday Morning, the BBC World Service's "Outlook" and National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" and "Talk of the Nation." He lives today in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and their three children.
Photo by Susanne Lareau Maxwell