What started out as a streaming audio show at Wired in 2000 morphed into this little program in my tiny corner of the Internet.

Author and publisher Brad King hosts The Downtown Writers Jam Podcast, this hour-long, one-on-one interview program where authors discuss the horrible choices they made in life that led them down the road to writing. Sometimes there is whiskey. Oftentimes there is cursing. But always entertaining. (My friends wouldn’t lie to me, right?)

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Episode 36: Evan Ratliff: We were Wired lackeys during the dotcom boom, but those days are long gone. In the years since we left the magazine, Evan is a two-time National Magazine Award finalist, the co-founder of the Atavist publishing platform, the editor-in-chief of The Atavist Magazine, the co-founder of Pop-Up Magazine, and now the author of what is sure to be the next big bestseller, The Mastermind: Drugs, Empire, Murder, Betrayal.

About Evan Ratliff

Evan Ratliff is a journalist and the author of The Mastermind: Drugs, Empire, Murder, Betrayal (Random House, 2019). He is a two-time National Magazine Award finalist, a two-time Livingston Award finalist, and his feature writing for magazines including Wired, The New Yorker, The Atavist Magazine, and National Geographic has featured in numerous Best American anthologies.

He was previously the cofounder and CEO of Atavist, a media and software company, and the editor-in-chief of The Atavist Magazine (both acquired by Automattic in 2018). Under his direction, The Atavist was nominated for nine National Magazine Awards—winning the first award for feature writing ever given to a digital publication—and two Emmys.

On the side, he co-hosts the popular Longform Podcast, and co-founded Pop-Up Magazine, one of the country’s most successful live literary events.

About The Mastermind

The incredible true story of the decade-long quest to bring down Paul Le Roux—the creator of a frighteningly powerful Internet-enabled cartel who merged the ruthlessness of a drug lord with the technological savvy of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur

It all started as an online prescription drug network, supplying hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of painkillers to American customers. It would not stop there. Before long, the business had turned into a sprawling multinational conglomerate engaged in almost every conceivable aspect of criminal mayhem. Yachts carrying $100 million in cocaine. Safe houses in Hong Kong filled with gold bars. Shipments of methamphetamine from North Korea. Weapons deals with Iran. Mercenary armies in Somalia. Teams of hit men in the Philippines. Encryption programs so advanced that the government could not break them.

The man behind it all, pulling the strings from a laptop in Manila, was Paul Calder Le Roux—a reclusive programmer turned criminal genius who could only exist in the networked world of the twenty-first century, and the kind of self-made crime boss that American law enforcement had never imagined.

For half a decade, DEA agents played a global game of cat-and-mouse with Le Roux as he left terror and chaos in his wake. Each time they came close, he would slip away. It would take relentless investigative work, and a shocking betrayal from within his organization, to catch him. And when he was finally caught, the story turned again, as Le Roux struck a deal to bring down his own organization and the people he had once employed.

Award-winning investigative journalist Evan Ratliff spent four years piecing together this intricate puzzle, chasing Le Roux’s empire and his shadowy henchmen around the world, conducting hundreds of interviews and uncovering thousands of documents. The result is a riveting, unprecedented account of a crime boss built by and for the digital age.

“Evan Ratliff has pried open a hidden world of high-tech gangsters and drug kingpins and double-crossers and stone-cold hitmen.”—David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon


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This newsletter is the outgrowth of The Downtown Writers Jam podcast. What that means is I will collect information about the authors I interview, book happenings around the Web, and other literary events that I find interesting. Without you, I'm just a crazy guy sitting in his office furiously screaming on the page for no reason.
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