Today I am joined by Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump. In this episode we talk about Mr. Groom’s long and storied writing career, why he felt like he didn’t have anything to write about until going to Vietman, the state of publishing today, why writing history should be fun, why he took so long between novels, his new novel El Paso, and much more.
“If you see a line, go stand in it, probably can’t hurt nothing” is a sample of the pithy wisdom of Forrest Gump by Gump’s creator, Winston Groom.
Winston Groom took the publishing world by storm when his 1986 novel Forrest Gump flew to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for 21 weeks. It has sold over 2.5 million copies in the United States alone, and millions more worldwide, on the heels of its blockbuster movie adaptation starring Tom Hanks. The book has also been reprinted in at least eighteen languages.
Born in 1943, Groom grew up in Mobile, Alabama, where he attended University Military School prep. In 1965 he graduated from the University of Alabama with an AB in English and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. He served in Vietnam, mostly with the 1st Brigade of the Fourth Infantry Division from July 1966 to September 1967 when he was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain. He then spent the next eight years working as a reporter and columnist for the Washington Star before becoming a full-time author. He holds several honorary Ph.D. degrees as a “Doctor of Humane Letters.”
Groom is the author of Sixteen books. In addition to Forrest Gump and Gump & Co., Groom’s novels include Better Times Than These, Gone the Sun, Only and the award-winning As Summers Die, which was made into a movie starring Bette Davis. He is also the author of Conversations with the Enemy, a non-fiction account of the experience of an American prisoner of war in Vietnam, a brilliantly rendered Pulitzer Prize finalist. His novel Such a Pretty, Pretty Girl, was published by Random House in the spring of 1999
As well as being a talented novelist, Groom is also a renowned author of history. One of his books, the prize-winning Shrouds of Glory, published by Grove-Atlantic Press, is “a meticulous, atmospheric history of the little known, but very dramatic, Western Campaign of the Civil War.” inspired by tales of his great-grandfather who fought for the Confederate Army. His critically acclaimed A Storm in Flanders, a World War I history, was published by Grove-Atlantic in June of 2002. His World War II history book. 1942: The Year That Tried Men’s Souls, was published by Grove in the spring of 2005. Patriotic Fire, his history of Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte at the Battle of New Orleans was published by Knopf in the Spring of 2006 to widespread critical accolades. That same year he was the recipient of the University of Alabama’s coveted Clarence Cason Award for excellence in Journalism. In 2009 his Civil War history Vicksburg: 1863, was published by Knopf, again to widespread accolades, several comparing him with renowned historians Shelby Foote and Bruce Catton. Also that year he was inducted into the University of Alabama College of Communications Hall of Fame.
He has also appeared as a motion picture actor in the acclaimed Warner Brothers movie of Willie Morris’ novel, My Dog Skip.
For several years, Groom led a popular literary festival at the North Carolina mountain resort of High Hampton. Past guests have included: Pat Conroy, William Styron, George Plimpton, Dan Jenkins, Shana Alexander, Gay Talese, Peter Mathiessen, Kaye Gibbons, Peter Maas, Willie Morris and P. J. O’Rourke.
He believes as Forrest says, “Always be able to look back and say, ‘At least, I didn’t lead no humdrum life.”
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