Author Stories Podcast Episode 871 | Matt Gallagher Interview

Today’s author interview guest is Matt Gallagher, author of Empire City.

Empire City is a dark, nimble book that pulls no punches. While the novel tracks an alternate historical reality, time and again I found myself taken aback at just how prescient and applicable its insight is to our very real present. Gallagher once again establishes himself as a preeminent voice in American writing.” —Sara Novic, award-winning author of Girl at War

“A brilliant and daring novel. Gallagher’s prose is sharp, energetic and witty, his characters are fiercely alive, and the cracked vision of America he creates is a monstrous thing of beauty.” —Phil Klay, award-winning author of Redeployment

The author of the “urgent and deeply moving” (The New York TimesYoungblood returns with this bold and provocative novel following a group of super-powered soldiers and civilians as they navigate an imperial America on the precipice of a major upheaval—for fans of The Fortress of Solitude and The Plot Against America.

Thirty years after its great triumph in Vietnam, the United States has again become mired in an endless foreign war overseas. Stories of super soldiers known as the Volunteers tuck in little American boys and girls every night. Yet domestic politics are aflame. Violent protests erupt throughout the nation; an ex-military watchdog group clashes with police while radical terrorists threaten to expose government experiments within the veteran rehabilitation colonies.

Halfway between war and peace, the Volunteers find themselves waiting for orders in the vast American city-state, Empire City. There they encounter a small group of civilians who know the truth about their powers, including Sebastian Rios, a young bureaucrat wrestling with survivor guilt, and Mia Tucker, a wounded army pilot-turned-Wall Street banker. Meanwhile, Jean-Jacques Saint-Preux, a Haitian-American Volunteer from the International Legion, decides he’ll do whatever it takes to return to the front lines.

Through it all, a controversial retired general emerges as a frontrunner in the presidential campaign, promising to save the country from itself. Her election would mean unprecedented military control over the country, with promises of security and stability—but at what cost?

Featuring Gallagher’s “vital” (The Washington Post), “evocative” (The Wall Street Journal) prose, Empire City is a rousing vision of an alternate—yet all too familiar—America on the brink.

Matt Gallagher is the author of the novels Empire City and Youngblood, a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Esquire, The Paris Review and Wired, among other places. He’s also the author of the Iraq war memoir Kaboom and coeditor of, and contributor to, the short fiction collection Fire & Forget: Short Stories from the Long War.

In 2015, Gallagher was featured in Vanity Fair as one of the voices of a new generation of American war literature. In January 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren read Matt’s Boston Globe op-ed “Trump Rejects the Muslims Who Helped Us” on the U.S. Senate Floor. Among other media, he’s appeared on CBS News Sunday Morning and NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show, and was interviewed at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan by retired general David H. Petraeus.

A graduate of Wake Forest University, Matt also holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. He lives with his wife and son in Brooklyn and works as a writing instructor at Words After War, a literary nonprofit devoted to bringing veterans and civilians together to study conflict literature.

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