This week on “Two Way Street,” Lawrence Wright joined us in front of a live audience at the Atlanta History Center to discuss his new book, ”The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State.”
Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning non-fiction author who is also a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. He is known to immerse himself in dangerous and secretive circles, including that of Scientology, which he produced a 2013 book on called “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.“ “The Terror Years” is no less daring.
Wright takes us back to the start of his fascination with the Middle East, which began by chance when he was a young contentious objector to the Vietnam War. The Dallas Draft Board gave him two weeks to find a job. So he took the first position he could find—teaching at The American University in Cairo at a time when the United States had no diplomatic relations with Egypt.
Since then, he’s continued to be a regular visitor to the Middle East. In 2003, he mentored aspiring journalists in Osama Bin Laden’s hometown after Saudi Arabia denied him a journalist visa, the more conventional route of entry.
His strong ties to the Middle East have made reporting on it all the more difficult. Wright tells us what it’s like to see the region he loves in so much turmoil. Plus, he weighs in on whether the worst is yet to come.
Wright shows us that his creative self has a lighter side, too. He’s written seven plays, his favorite of which will debut this fall in Austin, where he lives with his wife Roberta. “Cleo” is about the making of the 1963 flop, “Cleopatra.”