Lawrence Wright (born August 2, 1947) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, screenwriter, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, and fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law. Wright is best known as the author of the 2006 nonfiction book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Wright is also known for his work with documentarian Alex Gibney who directed film versions of Wright's one man show My Trip to Al-Qaeda and his book Going Clear.
Background and education
Wright graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas, in 1965 and was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2009. He is a graduate of Tulane University and taught English at the American University in Cairo (from which was awarded a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics in 1969) in Egypt for two years.
In 1980 Wright began working for the magazine Texas Monthly and contributed to Rolling Stone magazine. In late 1992, he joined the staff of The New Yorker.
The Looming Tower
Wright is the author of six books but is best known for his 2006 publication, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. A quick bestseller, The Looming Tower was awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and is frequently referred to by some media pundits as being an excellent source of background information on Al Qaeda and the September 11 attacks. The book's title is a phrase from the Quran 4:78: "Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower," which Osama bin Laden quoted three times in a videotaped speech seen as directed to the 9/11 hijackers.
Wright had written a profile of former Scientologist Paul Haggis for The New Yorker. Wright's book on Scientology, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief was published in January 2013. The book contains interviews from current and former Scientologists, and examines the history and leadership of the organisation. In an interview for The New York Times, Wright disclosed that he has received "innumerable" letters threatening legal action from lawyers representing the church and celebrities who belong to it. Wright spoke to two hundred current and former Scientologists for the book. The Church published an official statement in its newsroom and a blog listing its rebuttals to Wright's claims.
Among Wright's other books is Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory (1994), about the Paul Ingram false memory case. On June 7, 1996, Wright testified at Ingram's pardon hearing.
Wright also co-wrote the screenplay for the film The Siege (1998), which tells the story of a terrorist attack in New York City that leads to curtailed civil liberties and rounding up of Arab-Americans. A script that Wright originally wrote for Oliver Stone was turned instead into a well-regarded Showtime movie, Noriega: God's Favorite (2000).
A documentary featuring Wright, My Trip to Al-Qaeda, premiered on HBO in September 2010. It was based on his journeys and experiences in the Middle East during his research for The Looming Tower. My Trip to Al-Qaeda looks at al-Qaeda, Islamic radicalism, hostility to America and the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq and combines Wright's first-person narrative with documentary footage and photographs.
Wright also plays the keyboard in the Austin, Texas, blues collective WhoDo.
Awards and honors
- 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for The Looming Tower
- 2006 New York Times bestseller for The Looming Tower
- 2006 New York Times Notable Book of the Year for The Looming Tower
- 2006 New York Times Best Books of the Year for The Looming Tower
- 2006 IRE Award for The Looming Tower
- 2006 National Book Award finalist for The Looming Tower
- 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist for The Looming Tower
- 2006 Time magazine's Best Books of the Year for The Looming Tower
- 2007 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for The Looming Tower
- 2007 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism for The Looming Tower
- 2007 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for The Looming Tower
- 2007 Lionel Gelber Prize for The Looming Tower
- 2007 Arthur Ross Book Award shortlist for The Looming Tower
- 2007 PEN Center USA Literary Award (Research Nonfiction) for The Looming Tower
- 2009 Newsweek 50 Books for Our Times for The Looming Tower
- 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award (Nonfiction) shortlist for Going Clear
- 2015 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
- Kirsten Reach (January 14, 2014). "NBCC finalists announced". Melville House Publishing. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
- "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. January 14, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.