Dec 22, 2010 — Curtis Wilkie is the author of The Fall of the House of Zeus, in which he chronicles the life of Dickie Scruggs, a trial lawyer who made millions in lawsuits targeting the asbestos and tobacco industries — and then wound up in prison for attempted bribery.
Dec 21, 2010 — Arthur George Gaston overcame his humble beginnings to become a multimillionaire in the funeral home business and a huge financial backer of the civil rights movement. Biographer Suzanne Smith explains Gaston's lasting legacy on black entrepreneurship in America.
Dec 20, 2010 — Founding Father Robert Morris was a laissez-faire capitalist and subject of perhaps the first American congressional inquiry. In Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution, author Charles Rappleye argues that the war couldn't have been won without him.
Aug 19, 2010 — The writer once said about his fellow Americans, "It is astonishing that in a country so devoted to the individual, so many people should be afraid to speak." Baldwin was African-American and openly gay — but he was not afraid to speak, and his writings challenged black and white readers alike.
Aug 18, 2010 — Clarence King was a geologist, a best-selling author — and a liar. He lived an elaborate double life, and his story — told by Martha Sandweiss in her book, Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line — sheds light on our complicated ideas about race.
Aug 17, 2010 — Henry Clay was a leading 19th century representative, senator, presidential candidate — and slaveholder who condemned slavery. In Henry Clay: The Essential American, David and Jeanne Heidler try to make sense of the statesman's great contradiction.
Dec 30, 2009 — Wil Haygood talks to Steve Inskeep about the life and career of Sugar Ray Robinson, including his many fights against rival boxer Jake LaMotta. Haygood is the author of a new biography of Robinson called Sweet Thunder.
Dec 29, 2009 — Shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt has been described as combative. Author T.J. Stiles found court records that showed Vanderbilt engaged in fist-fights and won into his 50s. In his book, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Stiles tells Steve Inskeep that Vanderbilt was as ruthless as he was principled — and, while amassing an unrivaled fortune in American history, he pioneered many of the foundations of the economy we know today.
Dec 28, 2009 — For many readers, Louisa May Alcott is synonymous with her most famous character, Jo March, the spirited sister in Little Women. But author and filmmaker Harriet Reisen says Alcott's life "was no children's book." Reisen's The Woman Behind 'Little Women' premieres Monday night on PBS.