About Neil / Contact info / Speaking
Neil Swidey is a narrative nonfiction author and journalist. His most recent book, Trapped Under the Sea, was a No. 1 Boston Globe bestseller that was named one of the best books of 2014 by Amazon and Booklist. His first book, The Assist, was a Boston Globe bestseller that was named one of the best books of 2008 by the Washington Post. He was also a coauthor of the New York Times bestselling Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy , which led to his assignment as on-air contributing analyst for NBC News, focusing on Kennedy coverage.
A staff writer for the Boston Globe Magazine, Neil writes about a wide range of topics and subcultures. (Another interpretation: He’s not very good at sticking with a beat.) His work has been featured in The Best American Science Writing, The Best American Crime Writing, The Best American Crime Reporting, and The Best American Political Writing. He’s been a six-time winner of the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, a four-time winner of the National Headliner Award, an Emmy Award nominee (New England), and a finalist for the National Magazine Award.
But his biggest reward is getting to follow his reporting curiosity wherever it leads him, from medicine to parenting to politics. He writes often about the intersection of life and technology, having weighed in early on about how Google and smart phones were changing not just how we communicate, but who we are. He has profiled celebrities, pro athletes and presidential candidates, but specializes in writing about people who exist without publicists or entourages.
Neil has immersed himself in a sprawling retirement community to explore love in the later years, and he has tracked the trail of a temp who embezzled millions, wasting it all on the kind of bizarre crap you’d expect to find if you could journey through Christopher Walken’s brain. He has built a rifle on an assembly line to understand how gun manufacturing is booming in the bluest state in the union, and he has followed the transition of a family physician from male to female, through the eyes of longtime patients. He has captured the horror of the Boston Marathon bombings and then imagined the race’s future.
He and a colleague were the first reporters in the world to interview Osama bin Laden’s family in the weeks after the September 11th attacks. He wrote extensively about the history, culture and politics of the Middle East in the run-up to the Iraq war and wrote more recently about its aftermath. He was also the only reporter granted full access to the wrenching meetings between families of 9/11 victims and the man who was charged with putting a price tag on their loves ones’ lives.
Many of his stories, such as the one exploring what makes people gay, continue to generate lots of interest years after publication. (See story update 10 years later.) But the piece people ask him about most is the one he wrote years ago unearthing the story of how Mitt Romney had once driven from Boston to Canada with his dog Seamus on the roof. [Coverage: NPR’s On the Media]
A native of Somerset, Mass., Neil grew up in a big, close-knit family (five kids in about six years). He graduated from Tufts University, where he has since taught multimedia journalism. His first job after college was as founding editor of the Woburn (Mass.) Advocate, and he worked as an editor and newsroom manager for several newspapers before shifting to writing full time.
As an outgrowth of his first book, he founded the Alray Scholars Program, a mentoring and scholarship nonprofit that helps give Boston students a second chance at college. This volunteer work has, in turn, given him a deeper understanding of issues around debt, higher education, and income inequality, as evidenced in this piece.
Neil lives outside Boston with his wife, Denise, who is a chef and TV culinary producer, and their three daughters.
Publicist at Crown Publishers: Penny Simon, psimon at penguinrandomhouse.com
Neil’s literary agent:
The Wylie Agency
New York: (212) 246-0069
Check out Neil’s profile at the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau here.
For more info, please contact Wade Lucas at the speakers bureau: walucas at penguinrandomhouse.com or (212) 572-6113.
Profile summary: Neil Swidey engages audiences with powerful, widely applicable lessons about leadership, decision-making and safety that emerged from the five years of research he invested in his book Trapped Under the Sea. He has spoken to a wide range of groups, from law enforcement leaders and construction foremen to risk managers and biotech researchers. At the center of his presentation is an examination of the forces that allow very smart people to make very bad decisions, and how those bad decisions can cascade into life-threatening situations for workers on the front lines.