Show cover of American Rambler with Colin Woodward

American Rambler with Colin Woodward

Based in Richmond, Virginia, American Rambler discusses history, music, film, politics, and pop culture. The show is hosted by historian and author Colin Woodward and features long-form interviews with top writers, teachers, musicians, and podcasters.


Season 7, Episode 1: John A. Kirk
John Kirk is English, but he has lived in Arkansas for more than ten years. Raised in the Manchester area, his fascination with the US began as a graduate student, where he studied the civil rights movement. He is the author and editor of ten books, and his newest is on soldier, philanthropist, and governor Winthrop Rockefeller (yes, that Rockefeller family). It is the first fullscale scholarly treatment of WR's early life. In Arkansas, the legacy of Winthrop Rockefeller is a palpable one. Elected in 1966, WR was the first Republican Arkansas governor since Reconstruction. The fact that it took 90 years for that to happen says a lot about the political culture in which he lived. His journey from New York City to Little Rock may seem odd for someone of his stature, but in many ways it was an old American story of someone starting fresh by going west. WR was a reformer, but as John shows, the governor was always progressive when it came to civil rights. A flawed man, to be sure, WR nevertheless used his money and family name for good. While he struggled as a student at Yale, he felt comfortable in the oil fields of the 1930s and as an officer during World War II, where he was wounded in the Pacific during a kamikaze attack. John's book stops in 1956 when WR arrives in Arkansas. The book provides a detailed and pentrating look at Rockefeller, and it sets the stage for what will no doubt be an engaging and well-researched second volume.
78:17 09/04/2022
Epsiode 226: Bradley J. Sommer
Bradley J. Sommer is a native of Ohio who received his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 2021. In Pittsburgh, he studied under labor historian Joe William Trotter. His dissertation was “Tomorrow Never Came: Race, Class, Reform, Conflict, and the Decline of an Industrial City, Toledo, Ohio, 1930-1980,” which he is now revising into a book. Ohio is one of the country’s most populous states, a “purple” place that has usually determined the outcome of the presidential elections (though not in 2020, when Ohio went overwhelmingly for Trump). Brad talks about the difference between being a “de-industrial” and “post-industrial” city. And though Ohio has had its problems, none of its cities have been in crisis the way Detroit or Baltimore have. Brad is also on the vicious and unforgiving job market, so if you’re looking for a good historian, let him know. You can read more about him at You can also follow him at @DrHistoryBrad on Twitter.
97:23 07/05/2022
Episode 225: Edward T. O'Donnell
Edward T. O'Donnell is a professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. A native of the Bay State, Ed completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University. For years, he was the host of the history podcast In the Past Lane, whose guests included Ken Burns. Ed has stayed focused throughout his career. At Columbia, he gave history tours around lower Manhattan, while studying the labor movement in America. He also started a family. This type of focus has allowed helped him publish several books: 1001 Things Everyone Should Know about Irish- American History; Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum; Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality; and Visions of America. He is on sabbatical now, where he hopes to finish a new writing project. Unfortunately, he is no longer podcasting. But he has some interesting things to say about the process and the guests he talked with.
81:58 06/15/2022
Episode 224: Ruth A. Hawkins
Dr. Ruth Hawkins didn't get her Ph.D. in history, but she has proven one of the most important preservationists in the history of Arkansas. As the head of Heritage Sites Program at Arkansas State University for thirty years, she oversaw the restoration of the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess, the Pfeiffer-Hemingway House in Piggott, and Lakeport plantation in southeastern Arkansas along the Mississippi River. For her preservation and other work, Ruth was elected to the Arkansas Women's Hall of Fame. Ruth is the author of Unbelievable Happiness and Final Sorrow: The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Marriage, a book that took many years to finish. She says she's in no hurry to write another book. But for those interested in history, the houses ASU and Ruth helped preserve are treasures. They are as close to a time machine as we can get. 
75:22 05/24/2022
Episode 223: Guy Lancaster
Guy Lancaster is the editor of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture in Little Rock. He is also one of the foremost historians of lynching in America. American Atrocity is his most recent book. American Atrocity focuses on Arkansas, but it tells a larger story of lynching and race relations in America. Dr. Lancaster, a native of Arkansas, also gets to the heart of the matter by asking: what is a lynching? And how do we know actually happened in many of these instances? The short answer is: we don't. And what we know or don't know has a lot to do with the history of race in this country, where white people were believed without question when they accused an African American person of a crime. Mixing traditional primary source research with theory about race, Guy has written an important book. But as he and Colin discuss, lynching hasn't disappeared, it has instead only changed. What can events like the killing of Trayvon Martin and the attacks of January 6 tell us about the legacy of lynching and the continued problem of systematic racism in this country? Lynching is a heavy topic, but these are heavy times.
87:04 04/24/2022
Episode 222: Citizen Cash with Michael Foley
Michael Stewart Foley has been writing about music and Johnny Cash for a long time. His new book, Citizen Cash: The Political Life and Times of Johnny Cash, looks at the politics of the Man in Black, who had the unique ability to appeal to Democrats and Republicans even when the country was hideously divided. What was the source of his appeal? Cash was by no measure an ideologue, but he became an internationally known figure who championed causes such as Native American rights, prisoners, and men in uniform. Cash practiced what Dr. Foley calls the "politics of empathy." And while Cash was more political than many artists of his day, some didn't think he was political enough. Colin and Michael talk not just about Cash but his musical and political times, discussing everything from Cash and Vietnam to his competitors Merle Haggard and Bobby Bare, artists with a distinctly blue collar bent. Cash grew up in the cotton fields of rural Arkansas, and he never lost his love for his country or the salt of the earth people who were a part of his history and fan base.
69:45 03/06/2022
Episode 221: Get Back with Court Carney
It's been nearly two years, but historian and music expert Court Carney, a professor at Stephen F. Austin State University, returns to talk about the recent Beatles documentary Get Back. Director Peter Jackson's long-awaited film attempts to put the Beatles' Get Back/Let It Be sessions in the best possible light. Does he succeed? And how do we judge the film based on what we have known about the Beatles for fifty years? The Beatles began recording what would become the band's last album, Let It Be, in January 1969. It was a few months after the release of the White Album, the product of fruitful but contentious sessions in the summer of 1968. Let It Be wouldn't be released until the spring of 1970, by which time the Beatles had broken up. The film and album Let It Be--initially to be called Get Back--featured the Beatles trying to get back to a more live and rock and roll sound. The sessions culminated in the famous rooftop concert in London. The Fab Four got in trouble with the cops, but not before recording tracks that made it to the final album. However difficult the process might have been, in roughly a month, the Beatles had written and recorded an album and rehearsed enough material to begin another (what became Abbey Road). So, what are we to make of Peter Jackson's revisionism? Has be presented a happier band than we knew? Or is he merely documenting the inevitable breakup of the bestselling and most prolific band of all time? Court and Colin have some thoughts. 
76:47 02/15/2022
Episode 220: Amanda Frost
Amanda Frost is a Harvard-educated lawyer who teaches in Washington, D.C. at American University. You are Not American is her first book. It looks at various moments in United States history where citizenship was debated and legislated in lasting ways. Some of the cases she examines are well known, such as the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857, which ruled that African Americans had "no rights" that a "white man was bound to respect." Other cases--such as the Wong Kim Ark and Ruth Bryan Owen cases--ended better for those seeking citizenship. But You are Not American shows how often citizenship rights have come under attack and how often immigration and citizenship laws are tainted by overt racism, sexism, and xenophobia. 
72:47 02/06/2022
Episode 219: Christina Proenza-Coles
Christina Proenza-Coles' book, American Founders: How People of African Descent Established Freedom in the New World, is now available in paperback. Christina grew up in Miami (which she calls an "apartheid city"), the daughter of a Savannah mom and Cuban dad who fled not Castro but Batista. As a kid in Miami in the 80s, she saw Hispanic culture become dominant in her hometown, and it instilled in her a lifelong interest in America's racial history and makeup. Christina went to Swathmore for undergrad as a Psych major. She then attended the progressive and interdisciplinary New School for Social Research in New York City, where she studied with Eli Zaretsky and completed a dissertation comparing white settlers in colonial Virginia and Cuba. Christina's discussion of race and American history goes beyond the United States into places like Haiti, which has a unique and tragic history. Her book explores evergreen topics. But she and Colin talk about how has Trumpism has made historians reassess things they have taken for granted, such as the triumph of democracy over authoritarianism. Regardless, historians try to stay productive and engaged amid the insanity. And toward the end of their discussion, Christina talks about a famous fan of hers. We won't say who, but we'll give you a hint: he's a big jazz fan.
93:11 01/14/2022
Episode 218: Ben Beard
Ben Beard is a writer based in Chicago. He also loves film. He has written about civil rights and Muhammad Ali in the past, but his most recent book is The South Never Plays Itself: A Film Buff's Journey through the South on Screen. Born and raised in the Deep South, Ben has been writing about movies for years. The South Never Plays Itself covers such well-known titles as Birth of a Nation and Cool Hand Luke, but also examines lesser known films such as God's Little Acre and the William Shatner vehicle, The Intruder. And it looks closely at pictures that are perhaps unappreciated, such as Driving Miss Daisy. Ben also talks about his affinity for film critics Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael and how he manages to get writing done while holding down a full-time job.
75:55 12/30/2021
Episode 217: LaQuita Scaife
LaQuita Scaife is the daughter of Cecil Scaife, who worked at Sun Records with Sam Phillips. Born in Arkansas, and a man who initially wanted to act, Cecil worked at a radio station in the Mississippi River town of Helena before somehow meeting Phillips. As the Sun promotions man, Cecil traveled to radio stations to get them to play the latest hits by Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. And he was the man who handed Johnny Cash his gold record for "I Walk the Line." A colorful, innovative, and driven businessman, Cecil later moved to Nashville, where he continued his work with Cash at Columbia Records. But he eventually went his own way, producing gospel and budget compilation albums in the 1970s and beyond. LaQuita remembers that she never knew who was going to be at the breakfast table on any given day (or what her dad would be dressed like either). Enjoy this tour of the early rock and roll and Nashville scene, with everybody from Elvis and Cash to Conway Twitty, Billy Ray Cyrus, Brenda Lee, and Amy Grant making an appearance. And have  a merry country Christmas, ya'll!   
67:26 12/17/2021
Episode 216: James Horn
James Horn is a native of England who now resides in Virginia and works in Williamsburg, which makes sense if you know his scholarship. He has a new book out, A Brave and Cunning Prince: The Great Chief Opechancanough and the War for America. His book examines the crucial early years of the English colonies, which involved starvation, warfare, disease, and even cannibalism. While Jamestown is the first permanent English colony in America, it came close to annihilation in the early 1600s. Opechancanough waged war against the English for decades, but he had a long relationship with European settlers. Born in the mid-16th century, his life spanned over 90s years. He was abducted and traveled to Mexico and Europe as a young man. He remained loyal to the native people of Virginia, however, and proved a fierce adversary of the English.  Colin also asks about Jim's upbringing in England, his early travels in America (involving a semester in Wisconsin and a memorable trip across country via Greyhound bus), and his eventual move to Richmond.   
99:55 11/17/2021
Episode 215: Stephen Deusner
The Alabama rock band Drive-By Truckers have long been one of the hardest working and most thoughtful outfits working today. Now, they have a worthy biographer. Music writer Stephen Deusner is a native of McNairy County, Tennessee, a place immortalized on the Truckers' 2004 album The Dirty South. Stephen first encountered the Truckers through the band's 2003 album Decoration Day. Since then, he has been hooked. Where the Devil Don't Stay (which takes its name from a Mike Cooley song about a backwoods Alabama bootlegger), is his first book. DBT will be pleased. Where the Devil Don't Stay tracks the Truckers from their beginnings in north Alabama to their disastrous Memphis move, eventual breakthrough in Athens, Georgia, and making their mark via the two-disc, Skynyrd-inspired opus Southern Rock Opera. Since then, the music has kept coming, most recently on the band's 2020 offering, The New OK. So, fellow Lot Lizards, drop your Buford stick and grab your Betamax guillotine, it's time to talk some Truckers!   Music used in this episode: "Where the Devil Don't Stay," "Zip City," "Santa Fe," and "Goddamn Lonely Love."
113:18 11/11/2021
Episode 214: Black Cowboys of Rodeo
Keith Ryan Cartwright returns to the podcast to talk about his new (and first) book, Black Cowboys of Rodeo: Unsung Heroes from Harlem to Hollywood and the American West. Keith admits he didn't know much about the subject when he started, but he approached his work as another mission to "write about people." Over the course of his years covering rodeos, he was moved by his subject matter and fascinated by the men whose stories have gone untold for far too long. Keith gives us a tour of the rodeo world, one far more dangerous than most sports. How dangerous is it? And how much money do these cowboys make for such work? Also, what does Mohammad Ali and blaxploitation flicks have to do with rodeo history? Keith lets us know. Keith and Colin also spend some time discussing the strange world of prison rodeos, the most notorious one being at Angola in southern Louisiana, a place previously run by the imposing Warden Burl Cain.
102:28 10/31/2021
Episode 213: Robert Mann
Robert Mann has dedicated his life to politics. A professor at LSU in the Manship School of Mass Communication, he is the author of numerous books about American history and politics. He now has a memoir out, Backrooms and Bayous: My Life in Louisiana Politics.  Born in west Texas, Bob moved to Louisiana as a young man. A conservative at first who had politically minded parents, he developed his writing chops as a reporter and journalism student. He learned many lessons about politics along the way and eventually got his first major job working for Senator Russell Long. Long was a Democrat and son of the notorious senator and governor Huey Long, the "Kingfish," whose shadow falls long over the state's history. Senator Long made an impression on Bob, and he is still grappling with the Long legacy in Louisiana. Louisiana has a colorful political history, from "Uncle" Earl Long to Edwin Edwards. Some figures have been sinister, such as Klansman and neo-Nazi David Duke, and Bob was on the ground floor of making sure Duke did not win a prominent seat in Louisiana government. He also worked with Kathleen Blanco, who had the misfortune of being governor during Hurricane Katrina. While a unique state in many ways, Louisiana is also reflective of American politics generally. Bob has seen many politicians come and go, which is why it's worrying that he fears for this country's political future more than ever.     Music used: "Every Man a King," originally by Huey Long, performed by Randy Newman; "Louisiana, 1927," by Randy Newman; Professor Longhair, "Go to the Mardi Gras"; and in the outro, "Iko Iko" by Dr. John.
87:08 10/06/2021
Episode 212: Lou Antonio, Part II
In the second half of Colin's two-part conversation with actor and director Lou Antonio, Lou talks about playing Koko in the film Cool Hand Luke and what it was like being on the set with such a storied cast. Lou also talks about how he was almost chosen to play one of the Corleones in The Godfather, the joys of filming on location, his work on the ill-fated but popular show Dog and Cat (which he did with a young Kim Basinger) and his encounters with such legends as George Peppard, George C. Scott, Don Ameche, and Heath Ledger.  
67:45 09/27/2021
Episode 211: Lou Antonio, Part I
Lou Antonio is an actor and director perhaps best known for playing Koko in the 1967 classic Cool Hand Luke. But his part in that film was just one role in a long career dedicated to the stage, screen, and working behind the camera. Over the years, he met and worked with everyone from George C. Scott and Liz Taylor to Laurence Olivier, William Shatner, and Burt Reynolds. The son of a Greek immigrant father, Lou grew up in Oklahoma, where he played baseball and football. A bad shoulder injury, however, killed his dreams of being a ballplayer. In New York, Lou studied with Curt Conway and Lee Strasberg before landing roles on TV and in film. In the 1950s and 60s, he was working with acclaimed directors such as Elia Kazan and Otto Preminger. He also met and worked with an impressive array of actors on such films as Splendor in the Grass and Hawaii.  Lou takes the title of his book from Cool Hand Luke, the Paul Newman film about Lucas Jackson, a prisoner on a chain gang who will not conform to the rules. In addition to Newman, Lou played scenes with the legendary Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton, Strother Martin, George Kennedy, and Joe Don Baker.  In part one of this two-part conversation, Lou discusses how he got from Oklahoma to Hollywood and all the interesting people he met along the way.     
56:56 09/21/2021
Episode 210: Emory Thomas, Part II
Colin continues his conversation with Emory Thomas, Civil War historian and former professor at the University of Georgia, Athens. They discuss his biographies of Robert E. Lee and Jeb Stuart. Emory also talks about the Civil War sesquicentennial and the tragedy of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015. And speaking of Athens, in the intro, Colin talks about attending his first concert since the pandemic began, where he saw the Drive-By Truckers, an alt-country band formerly based in Athens.  
56:09 08/30/2021
Episode 209: Emory Thomas, Part I
Civil War historian Emory Thomas is a native of Richmond, Virginia. It's no coincidence, then, that he is known for his work on the Confederacy, including his biographies of Robert E. Lee and Jeb Stuart. However, he has made Athens, Georgia, his home since the late 1960s. As a football player at UVA, Emory got the history bug after reading C. Vann Woodward. His interest in the southern past took him to graduate school at Rice, where he studied under the prodigious Frank Vandiver. The University of Georgia was his first and only teaching job, and he stayed there for many years. In part one of this two-part conversation, Dr. Thomas talks about growing up on the Northside of Richmond, grad school, his military service in Ohio, and his landing in Athens.
83:08 08/22/2021
Episode 208: Jonson Miller
It's not often that historians make the leap from interplanetary geology to the study of antebellum Virginia. But Dr. Miller is one such person. And maybe it makes sense that someone from southwestern Pennsylvania who did part of his education in West Virginia, would want to study the inner workings of planets (it's coal country, after all). Now, he is a professor at Drexel University. He's on the podcast to discuss his book on VMI. VMI was a creature of the Jacksonian era--not because it was populated by Jacksonians necessarily, but because it reflected the struggle or political power between the upper and lower classes, Whigs and Democrats in antebellum America. The hope was that VMI would be a place where men could compete equally with one another, regardless of class, an equality predicated upon their superiority to women and African Americans. While it was and is a military school, VMI cadets did not have to join the military necessarily, and many of them went on to become teachers and engineers. Founded in the 1830s, VMI was intended to give an education to men of western Virginia, a region that had trouble competing with the politically and economically powerful eastern regions, where planters and slaves were more numerous. As VMI's founders framed it, Virginia would be transformed by providing a military education to instill virtue in men of the emerging urban and middle classes. Today, VMI boasts 1,600 students in what has become the attractive college town of Lexington, just west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
76:22 08/06/2021
Episode 207: Keith Ryan Cartwright
Some writers start young. Keith Ryan Cartwright is one of those. An early gift of a typewriter kept Keith busy while growing up in Wisconsin. And he hasn't stopped writing since. In part one of this conversation (part two will appear when his book comes out this fall), Keith talks about his brief stint in college in Florida, writing on the Madison music scene, and moving to Los Angeles to become a writer. In L..A, he spent a lot of time around bands such as Poison, Tuff, and Ratt and has had the opportunity to interview everyone from The Cult and Quiet Riot to David Lee Roth. Based in the Nashville area now, Keith's chops as a journalist have served him well over the years. He made the transition to television, where he worked at CMT and had an interesting run-in with football commentator Terry Bradshaw. He has a book coming out later this year, Black Rodeo Cowboys. In the fall, he'll return to the podcast to talk about it.   
89:10 07/28/2021
Episode 206: Lieutenant Colonel Sam V. Wilson, Jr.
Sam Wilson, Jr., is the son of the late General Samuel Vaughan Wilson, a member of the World War II unit "Merrill's Marauders," Cold War spy, and commander in Vietnam. His father's shadow falls long over his family, but Sam, Jr., had his own accomplished career in the military. He eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, which included a year in Vietnam in the early 70s, where he completed 25 dangerous helicopter missions to locate and pick up wounded soldiers. His experiences in the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta gave him a grudging respect for his North Vietnamese adversaries and led him to doubt the U.S. could win the war in in southeast Asia. Sam's later career included being an instructor in special forces, an intelligence officer, teacher, and manager at the Sailor's Creek battlefield near his childhood home. He is retired now, living in New Jersey and studying religion and theology. Sam talks with Colin about his military career and how it was shaped by his father, whose hectic schedule put pressure on the family. What was it like to be the son of a spy during the Cold War? Sam gives us an inside look.    In the intro, Colin talks about a recent trip to the beach in North Carolina and visits to Fort Fisher, an impressive Civil War site and the last source of supply for Robert E. Lee's army.
82:14 07/23/2021
Episode 205: David Hill
Writer and podcaster David Hill is the author of The Vapors: A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Spring's, America's Forgotten Capital of Vice. Originally from Arkansas, he moved to New York to work as a union organizer but moved back to his hometown for a year to write the book. One of the notches in the Bible Belt, Arkansas has a colorful history that does not always conform to its 21st century conservative reputation. Hot Springs is the wildest of Arkansas cities and was once where celebrities such as Al Capone and Babe Ruth spent their free time. Even though gambling was technically illegal in Arkansas, it was tolerated in Hot Springs for decades. By the early 1960s, the city was in its heyday and could boast of five million visitors a year. For a time, it looked like Hot Springs might eclipse Las Vegas as the gambling capital of America. But it didn't happen. Fate might have played a part, but the city also suffered a series of bad decisions and had to bend to outside political forces that rendered Hot Springs a shell of its former self by the 1980s. But as David tells Colin, the city is making a comeback. And Hot Springs, while unique, is an American story about the decline and rise of historic places across the country. David talks not just about his book, but also his days as a philosophy student at UT-Austin, his desire to write on the NBA, and why it's sometimes better to pursue unusual topics in order to get an agent's attention. David also has a podcast, Gamblers, available on Spotify.
107:28 06/26/2021
Episode 204: Blake Scott Ball
A native of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Blake Ball originally wanted to be a musician. Then he got the history bug. He has a new book out and it's his first, Charlie Brown's America: The Popular Politics of Peanuts. He's also the head of the history department at Huntingdon College in Alabama. When you think of Peanuts, you probably don't think of politics. But given the enormous popularity of the comic and TV shows, Charles Schulz felt obligated to address some of the major issues of the day, from civil rights to the women's movement and the Vietnam War. Schulz, however, often approached these subjects with ambivalence and ambiguity. One thing he was not "wishy washy" about, though, was his Christianity. And Schulz had to fight to have the Charlie Brown Christmas show contain an overtly Christian message at the end to remind people of the "reason for the season." Schulz wrote Peanuts for fifty years, producing 17,000 comics. At its height, the strip reached 100 million people per day. That's a big readership, and it meant Schulz had to take on some big topics. He also had to do it in a way that wouldn't alienate his audience. In his well-written and engaging book, Blake Ball explores how Schulz did this.    
90:55 06/03/2021
Episode 203: Joshua D. Rothman
Josh Rothman has gone native. Originally from New York, he has lived in Alabama for a while, where he is the head of the history department at the University of Alabama. He has a new book, The Ledger and the Chain: How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America. Josh began his career as a historian at Cornell University, where he completed a B.A. under the guidance of political historian Joel Silbey. He then went on to the University of Virginia, where he studied under (previous podcast guest) Ed Ayers. The Ledger and the Chain builds upon a career dedicated to southern racial and social history. The Ledger and the Chain focuses on three figures in the slave trade: Issac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard, who became wealthy dealing in human beings in the slave pens of Virginia, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The book uses extensive archival research to tell a rich, detailed, and altogether disturbing story of human exploitation. As Josh shows, the slave trade was capitalism at its most extreme. And despite the cruelty, callousness, and sexual exploitation embedded in the system, slave traders were respected members of their communities. They might have seem ruthless, "no nonsense" individuals, but they were providing a service that was both legal and lucrative.  Before delving into such dark subjects, Josh and Colin talk about the joys of being ABD in grad school and, of course, Bama and SEC football. They also discuss the unfortunate loss a few years ago of historian and journalist Tony Horwtiz. Is it better to "Geaux Tigers!" or "Roll Tide!?" Only Ole Miss fans can now for sure.
94:43 05/20/2021
Episode 202: Edward Packard
Edward Packard knows about choices. He went to Columbia Law School, but he never really wanted to be an attorney. He admits he was often "sleepwalking" through life before landing on an innovative idea for young readers. He eventually began writing full time, and many 80s kids (like Colin) can thank him for that. Edward created and wrote for the popular "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of paperbacks. Edward's idea was so successful that it inspired spin-offs (including his own Space Hawks series) and imitators. The series began in 1969 as a book called Sugarcane Island that Edward wrote for his children. A few years later, two books in the iconic CYOA series had appeared. One was a western, the other a sci-fi story. Edward wrote for the CYOA series for twenty years. While he has not been involved with the brand for a long time, CYOA is still generating new stories. Edward just turned 90, but he shows no signs of slowing down. He recently wrote a memoir and is trying his hand at a novel for adults. Colin talks with him about his "Essay the View from 90" as well as why Colorado has proven far more hospitable than southern Florida. You can check out Edward's work at   Support the podcast! Buy Colin's book at  
71:03 05/12/2021
Episode 201: Colin Woodard
Colin often gets confused with Colin. And by that, we mean the author of Marching Masters is often thought of as an author of books about Maine and pirates. To clear things up, Colin Woodard is the Maine author and historian behind Republic of Pirates, The Lobster Coast, American Nations, and the recent book, Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood (2020).  A writer his whole life, Colin came into journalism "accidentally." He studied history as an undergraduate at Tufts and began as a correspondent in post-communist Europe, spending long stretches in Hungary. In the 90s, he also got a masters degree at the University of Chicago in International Relations. A New York Times bestselling author, Colin is the state and national affairs writer at the Portland Press Herald, where he received a 2012 George Polk Award and was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. His writing has taken him from Antarctic to Greenland to Micronesia. And despite the trouble state of newspapers today, he has managed to stay in the game. So, get your Colins straight in this fascinating talk, covering everything from Maine to Malkovich!
104:27 04/21/2021
Episode 200: Michael Bellesiles
Recorded on St. Patrick's Day, Colin talks with historian Michael Bellesiles about our country reckoning with major issues such as gun violence, citizenship, and equality.  Michael is best known for his controversial book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, published in 2000. The book was the subject of an intense and prolonged campaign by NRA members and other right wing individuals to demolish its thesis and discredit Dr. Bellesiles's scholarship and integrity. The publicity surrounding the book was intense, and the fallout for Michael's career was severe. But he has made a comeback. His most recent book, Inventing Equality: Reconstructing the Constitution in the Aftermath of the Civil War, provides an honest assessment of key figures in American history and how they have perceived individual rights. It shows how vague the Founding Fathers left the concept of something so seemingly basic as citizenship and how the idea has changed over time.  Michael originally was a scholar of religion before turning his attention to American violence--not just in Arming America, but in his book 1877 (2010) and A People's History of the U.S. Military (2012). His scholarship has covered a wide swath of U.S. history. Whatever one thinks of Arming America and the debate surrounding it, Michael did not let it stop him from writing and teaching. And his story is one that deserves a prominent place in American historiography.          
86:21 04/17/2021
Episode 199: "The NRA: The Unauthorized History"
In part two of Colin's talk with journalist Frank Smyth, Frank talks about his 2020 book, The NRA: The Unauthorized History. The history of the National Rifle Association begins in New York City in 1871 as a group made up of Union veterans and those interested in target shooting. Founded on the model of the British National Rifle Association, the American NRA was a pro-government, pro-military organization seeking to train men for the next major war. As Frank's book shows, the NRA started to take a hard turn to the Right in the late 1970s at what has been called the "Cincinnati Revolt." Today, there is no doubt that the NRA has remade the country in its image. Despite its early history, the present-day NRA is wholly devoted to a liberal (but not Liberal) interpretation of the 2nd Amendment and protecting personal gun rights. Given the NRA's influence and five million member power base, it has been difficult for centrist and left-wing politicians and citizens to enact meaningful and sensible gun reform and regulation.  But is that changing? The NRA has been suffering from internal leadership squabbles and financial problems that are threatening its very existence. Grassroots groups, furthermore, such as the Parkland students, have gained success rallying support for common sense gun reform in the wake of countless mass shootings.  In Frank's well-written and fast-paced book, he gives an illuminating overview of the organization, which has not had the best track record when it comes to transparency and telling the truth about its origins. 
54:56 03/28/2021
Episode 198: Frank Smyth: Central America and the Mid-East
Frank Smyth is a journalist with a long and impressive career covering war-torn places such as Central America and the Mid-East. His resume includes articles and stories for The Village Voice, The Nation, and The Washington Post. He is also the author of The NRA: The Unauthorized History (2020), the subject of the next American Rambler podcast. You can find Frank's writings at The Progressive and Frank's website. In part one of Frank and Colin's conversation, Frank talks about how he went from a student at Boston College and Johns Hopkins to covering the complicated and often brutal war in El Salvador in the mid-1980s, where leftist forces battled with the U.S.-backed regime of President José Napoleón Duarte. In late 1989, six Jesuits were murdered at Central American University, and the international outcry led to an eventual ceasefire. As if that weren't dangerous enough, Frank left Central America to write about the Gulf War and subsequent unrest in Iraq. Not long after the end of American ground war ended, Frank was captured in northern Iraq while reporting on the Kurdish uprising. He was imprisoned for eighteen days. Frank wrote a great piece on his grueling experiences while imprisoned. You can read it here:
84:44 03/05/2021