S.C. (Sam) Gwynne is the author of Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. The book, which spent four months on the New York Times' Top 10 Best Seller's List, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and the winner of both the Texas and Oklahoma Book Awards.
It paints the epic story of the Comanches, who at one time ranged over an estimated 250,000 square miles of the American Plains, an area now part of five states. It also draws the more intimate story of Cynthia Ann Parker, a nine-year old girl who was kidnapped by Comanches during a raid on the family's Texas homestead. Parker subsequently spent 24 years with the tribe and had three children, including Quanah, who would become one of the Comanche's most skilled warriors. But the two were ultimately separated.
Marcia Franklin talks with Gwynne about why he was drawn to the stories of the Comanches, the Parkers and Quanah, why their history is not more broadly known, and why he thinks the Comanches were the most powerful tribe in America.
Gwynne is a special correspondent for the Texas Monthly, where he was the executive editor for nearly a decade. He has also held several positions at Time magazine, including correspondent, bureau chief and senior editor. His work there was honored with the National Headliners Award, the Gerald Loeb Award for business writing and the Jack Anderson Award for investigative reporting.
He is the author of two other books, Selling Money and The Outlaw Bank. His next book will be about Stonewall Jackson.
The interview is part of Dialogue's ongoing "Conversations from the Sun Valley Writers' Conference" and was taped at the 2012 conference. Since 1995, the conference has been bringing together authors to discuss literature and life. Marcia Franklin has interviewed speakers there since 2005. This year's, and previous years', conversations can be found at the Dialogue Sun Valley Writers site.