Search Results for: Sean Flynn

A look at the complicated afterlife of James Brown, and the battle over his estate among children he did, and did not, acknowledge:

Yet Mr. Brown was not wholly unprepared to die, either. Several years earlier, in August 2000, he’d drawn up a will in which he bequeathed his ‘personal and household effects’—his linens and china and such—to six adult children from two ex-wives and two other women. He was very clear, too, that those were the only heirs he intended to favor. ‘I have intentionally failed to provide for any other relatives or other persons,’ he wrote in the will. ‘Such failure is intentional and not occasioned by accident or mistake.’

“Papa.” — Sean Flynn, GQ, April 2009

More from GQ

The New Yorker's Nicholas Thompson: My Top 5 Longreads of 2011

Nicholas Thompson is a senior editor at The New Yorker and a frequent Longreader.


I’m a sucker for stories about reinvention, disappearence, and people who pretend to be someone they aren’t. The genre has cliches, and can become trite. But it can also be wonderful. And this year, the category brought us some wonderful longreads.


“Where’s Earl?” Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker

I’m biased, but the story by Kelefa Sanneh in The New Yorker about the rapper Earl Sweatshirt is, I think, a classic. The character Earl is the reinvention of another boy, whose amazing past and origins Sanneh describes. But then there’s the second disappearence of Earl himself, and then his quandry about whether and how to return to his career. Sanneh is also, stylistically, one of the most original and graceful writers around. Every sentence is a pleasure.

“His Own Private Idaho,” Sean Flynn, GQ

This piece by Flynn about a mobster who reinvents himself in Idaho, seems familiar at first. But then it turns out the central character is much more complex than you might have thought—and he ends up undone by something surprising and redemptive. It’s great. 

“My Mother’s Lover,” David Dobbs, The Atavist ($1.99)

I’m biased on this one too (I’m a co-founder of The Atavist), but Dobbs’s piece has deservedly been one of the best-selling “e-singles” of the year. It’s an amazing tale of a man discovering that his mother harbored a secret her entire adult life. And then, as Dobbs tries to resolve a mystery of his own family’s past, he gets tangled in the story of another’s. 

“Dave Sanders: Fiber-Optics Exec by Day, Defender of Justice by Night”, Joshua Davis, Wired

Joshua Davis is one of the most cinematic magazine writers around; he’s wonderful at introducing groups of characters, crafting scenes, and keeping a narrative moving. This recent piece in Wired about a fiber-optics-executive who recreates himself as a (sort-of) good-guy vigilante is a classic. It’s complicated, but Davis tells the story smoothly and smartly. 

“The Incredible Case of the P.I. Moms,” Joshuah Bearman, This American Life

I know this is a long “reads” list, but the lines with long “listens” are blurry, and there was a story this fall on This American Life of this type that I just loved: Joshuah Bearman’s “The Incredible Case of the P.I. Moms.” Like many of the other best stories in this genre, it takes, layer by layer, through a complicated series of reinventions and disguises. Plus it mixes in reality television, a mole, and an heroic journalist.


See more lists from our Top 5 Longreads of 2011 >

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They landed in Memphis, Tennessee, and drove across the Mississippi River to West Memphis. A local reporter showed them around and explained the case in terms of certain guilt. So did everyone else they met. “Absolutely, without exception, every person we met: rotten teens,” Berlinger says. He and Sinofsky decided to embed themselves for the duration of the trials. They would film the families of the victims and the accused, the prosecutors and the defense attorneys, and they would film inside the courtroom. When it was all over, they expected to have footage they could sift and splice into a narrative of murderous, misbegotten youths. “A real-life River’s Edge,” Berlinger says now. “That’s the irony in this whole thing: We went down to do a story about rotten teens.”

That was not the point of the film they released three years later. Rather, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills is a chronicle of fear and hysteria in the aftermath of a terrible crime. But mainly it is about three innocent kids and the persecution of misfits masquerading as a prosecution.

“Three at Last!” — Sean Flynn, GQ

More from Flynn: “Boom.” GQ, July 2010

Paul Brady: My Top 5 Travel Longreads of 2010

Paul Brady is an editor at Condé Nast Traveler.


This isn’t a list of the best travel writing of the year, but if this is what travel writing could be every time, the genre wouldn’t have such a shaky reputation. I didn’t pick anything from Traveler because that would be lame.

Pass the Bucks (Steve Boggan, The Guardian, Dec. 11, 2010)

The story of following the same $10 around the country for 30 days could’ve been hokey, but Steve Boggan set aside his own quest to write about the characters he meets, their lives and the places they live.

All Amanda Can Jet (Tumblr)

This was the second year JetBlue released its All You Can Jet pass, spawning a mountain of mediocre tweets and poorly-managed trip-diary blogs. But Amanda Mae got it absolutely right—and the constantly updated “local beers consumed” metric was a nice touch.

My Country, My Train, My K-Hole (Hugh Ryan, The Morning News, June 30, 2010)

I’m a sucker for stories about trains, but this is on the next level: “The train is a liberating K-hole, a moment of suspended animation where it’s entirely acceptable to not answer phone calls … There are an endless number of things you can not do.”

No Country for Old Men? (Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian, Jan. 25, 2009)

This Ed Vulliamy article is from 2009, but the full-length book that grew out of it, Amexica, came out this year. Driving the entirety of the Mexican-American border, he writes a little bit about everything that makes it one of the most fascinating places on the planet: tattoo parlors, Christianity, narcoterrorism, “right-wing windbag talk radio,” and what sounds like the best La Quinta in Texas.

Boom (Sean Flynn, GQ, July 2010)

Probably the best story I read about the biggest story of the year, the oil spill, and while I probably can’t argue that it’s “travel writing,” it certainly evokes a particular place.


The Whistling Language of La Gomera

I have no idea when this was written, but I found it this year while researching… something. I forget. I like it because while we may spend 18 hours a day on the internet, there are still fascinating things to find out about like this utterly unique whistling language invented in and still used in the Canary Islands.


Longreads Pick

Lost in the catastrophic aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is the gripping tale of the rig workers and the Coast Guard crewmen who rescued them. Sean Flynn re-creates their long, harrowing, heart-pounding night

Author: Sean Flynn
Source: GQ
Published: Jul 1, 2010
Length: 31 minutes (7,892 words)

Black & Blue

Longreads Pick

Damien Echols spent 18 years on death row as part of the “West Memphis Three” before being freed in 2011. He’s now adjusting to domestic life in Salem, Mass.:

“Lucia Coale and her husband, Ed Schutte, found out about their new neighbors back in September, not long after Davis and Echols had signed the papers on the 1810 Colonial a few houses down. Someone on the street sent out an email: ‘Oh my gosh, guess who’s moving here?’ Coale remembers it saying. ‘We all went through a period where we checked [Echols] out on the Internet and watched Paradise Lost.’ Coale herself began to follow Echols on Twitter, which is how she learned that weeks after they’d moved in, he and Davis still didn’t own a TV, which meant that every time Echols had a television appearance, which in those days was often, they were heading down to the Hawthorne Hotel to watch it.

“Some time later, Coale and Schutte were out on a bike ride when they saw Echols and Davis out walking. ‘I tend to be a very chatty person, so I just kind of walked up and I said, ‘Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m your neighbor,’’ Coale recalled. They invited Echols and Davis over to watch TV whenever they wanted. ‘I didn’t know we would become friends with them,’ Schutte said. ‘Are you going to be friends with someone who was in solitary confinement for years? How would that work?'”

Source: Boston Magazine
Published: Jun 24, 2013
Length: 14 minutes (3,612 words)