Hampton Sides

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Hampton Sides
Hampton Sides speaking at a 2016 literary conference in Napa Valley
Hampton Sides speaking at a 2016 literary conference in Napa Valley
BornWade Hampton Sides[1][2]
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Pen nameW. Hampton Sides (formerly)[1][3]
Alma materYale
GenreNonfiction, history, american history
Notable worksAmericana
Blood and Thunder
Ghost Soldiers
Hellhound on His Trail
In the Kingdom of Ice
SpouseAnne Goodwin
Children3 sons

Wade Hampton Sides (born 1962) is an American historian, author and journalist. He is the author of Hellhound on His Trail, Ghost Soldiers, Blood and Thunder, On Desperate Ground, and other bestselling works of narrative history and literary non-fiction.

Sides is editor-at-large for Outside magazine and has written for such periodicals as National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Esquire, Men's Journal, The American Scholar, Smithsonian, and The Washington Post. His magazine work, collected in numerous published anthologies, has been twice nominated for National Magazine Awards for feature writing.[4]

Early life[edit]

A native of Memphis, Sides attended PDS Memphis[2] and Memphis University School, and graduated from Yale with a BA in history. In 2017, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Colorado College.[5] Sides lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his wife Anne Goodwin Sides, a journalist and former NPR editor.


Sides is a past fellow of the Santa Fe Institute, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Japan Society, and has been an Edwards Media Fellow at Stanford University.

He is a member of the Society of American Historians and serves on the boards of the Authors Guild and the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. Sides has guest-lectured at Columbia, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech, the Autry National Center of the American West, the American Embassy in Manila, the National World War II Museum, the Chautauqua Institution, the Explorers Club, the Sun Valley Writers' Conference, and the Google campus, among other venues and institutions. He has appeared as a guest on such national broadcasts as the American Experience, the Today show, Book TV, the History Channel, Fresh Air, CNN, CBS Sunday Morning, The Colbert Report, and NPR's All Things Considered.


Ghost Soldiers[edit]

Ghost Soldiers (Doubleday, 2001), a World War II narrative about the rescue of Bataan Death March survivors, has sold slightly over a million copies worldwide and has been translated into a dozen foreign languages. Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City, praised Ghost Soldiers as a "Great Escape for the Pacific Theater," and Esquire called it "the greatest World War II story never told." The book was the subject of documentaries on PBS and The History Channel, and was partially the basis for the 2005 Miramax film, The Great Raid (along with William Breuer's The Great Raid on Cabanatuan). Ghost Soldiers won the 2002 PEN USA Award for non-fiction and the Discover Award from Barnes & Noble. The book's success led Sides to create The Ghost Soldiers Endowment Fund, a non-profit foundation dedicated to preserving the memory of the sacrifices made by Bataan and Corregidor veterans by funding relevant archives, museums, and memorials.


Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier is a 2004 collection of non-fiction essays.[6] The book was published in paperback on April 13, 2004, through Doubleday.[7][8] The book consists of several essays that Sides wrote while traveling through the United States and examining American cultures during a period of 15 years. Sides pays specific attention to subcultures that would fall under the topic of "Americana".[9]

Blood and Thunder[edit]

Blood and Thunder (Doubleday, 2006) focuses on the life and times of controversial frontiersman Kit Carson, and his role in the conquest of the American West. A critic for the Los Angeles Times described Blood and Thunder as "stunning, haunting, and lyrical," while The Washington Post called it "riveting, monumental...authoritative and masterfully told." Blood and Thunder was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2006 by Time Magazine, and was selected as that year's best history title by the History Book Club and the Western Writers of America. Blood and Thunder was the subject of a major documentary on the PBS program American Experience and is currently under development for the screen.

Hellhound on His Trail[edit]

Hellhound on His Trail (Doubleday 2010) is about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the largest manhunt in American history to capture James Earl Ray, who pleaded guilty in 1969 and served the rest of his life in prison. Sides, who is a native of Memphis, is the first historian to make use of a new digital archive in that city, called the B. Venson Hughes Collection, which contains more than 20,000 documents and photos, many of them rare or never before published. Sides' research forms much of the basis for PBS's documentary "Roads to Memphis", which originally aired May 3, 2010, on the award-winning program, American Experience.

Hellhound on His Trail reached #6 on The New York Times Best Seller list and was a finalist for the 2011 Edgar Awards as the year’s best non-fiction mystery. Janet Maslin of The New York Times called the book "spellbinding...bold, dynamic, unusually vivid," while a reviewer in The New York Times Book Review suggested that Hellhound "may be the first book on King that owes less to Taylor Branch than Robert Ludlum." Time Magazine said Hellhound "unfolds like a mystery—one read not for the ending but for all the missteps and near misses along the way." Critic Laura Miller, writing on Salon.com, described Hellhound as a "meticulous yet driving account that is in essence a true-crime story and a splendid specimen of the genre." David Garrow, author of a Pulitzer-winning biography of King, wrote in The Washington Post that Hellhound was "a carefully constructed true-crime narrative" and "a memorable and persuasive portrait" that "makes a valuable contribution to the historical record."

Black Label Media will produce and direct a film adaption, with a spring 2018 target for start of production. The script will be adapted by Scott Cooper who will also direct the film.[10]

In the Kingdom of Ice[edit]

In the Kingdom of Ice (2014, Doubleday) recounts the tragic true story of the first official American attempt on the North Pole, the voyage of the USS Jeannette led by Navy captain George DeLong in 1879. Key historical figures in the book include James Gordon Bennett, Jr., owner of the New York Herald newspaper and financier, and August Heinrich Petermann, a German cartographer whose theory helped spawn the polar expedition.[11]

The book has been translated into French, German, Chinese, Polish, and Russian, among other languages. Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, called In the Kingdom of Ice “the most dramatic polar mission you’ve never heard of. Once you start, you won’t stop.” S.C. Gwynne, author of Empire of the Summer Moon called it “an Arctic thriller . . . an authentic narrative masterpiece.” Efforts to locate the wreck of the USS Jeannette have been led by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, for which Sides has served as a consultant. In the Kingdom of Ice is reportedly being developed for the small screen by Emmy Award winning screenwriter Kirk Ellis (John Adams).

On Desperate Ground[edit]

On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War's Greatest Battle, was published on October 2, 2018. It is a multifaceted retelling of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir through the experiences of marines, commanders, pilots, Korean citizens and the Chinese. It also acts an indictment of the overweening hubris of General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur. Through MacArthur's self-proclaimed expertise on the "Oriental mind" and what Sides referred to as MacArthur's "solemn regard for his own mind", MacArthur was thoroughly convinced of American victory; instead, and while completely ignoring the advice of leaders on the ground, MacArthur sent American troops into what could only result into a massacre.[12] Historian Douglas Brinkley called the book “a heart-pounding, fiercely written . . . one of the finest battle books ever.” A reviewer for Bloomberg, calling the book “ superb,” wrote that On Desperate Ground "should be required reading for negotiators on both sides of the DMZ.” The Washington Post named On Desperate Ground one of the ten best books of 2018, and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation named it the year's best non-fiction book.

Considerable parts of the narrative follow aviator Jesse L. Brown, who is also the subject of the 2022 film Devotion.

Selected journalism[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Westward Ho!". The New Yorker.
  2. ^ a b Baccus, Winston. "404". www.pdsmemphis.org. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  3. ^ "W. Hampton Sides". Memphis magazine.
  4. ^ "Hampton Sides: Blood & Thunder - Pritzker Military Museum & Library - Chicago". www.pritzkermilitary.org.
  5. ^ "Recipients • Academic Events Committee Colorado College". www.coloradocollege.edu. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  6. ^ "SIDE VIEW; Santa Fe author Hampton Sides sees America from a different angle". Santa Fe Reporter (subscription required). April 28, 2004. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  7. ^ Steinberg, David (May 2, 2004). "Author reworks essays for 'Americana'". Albuquerque Journal. Archived from the original on July 22, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  8. ^ "Book Discussion on Americana". C-SPAN. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  9. ^ Petrusich, Amanda (2008). It Still Moves. MacMillan. ISBN 9781429957557. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  10. ^ Mike Fleming Jr. (August 1, 2017). "Scott Cooper, Black Label Media Adapt MLK Assassination Thriller 'Hellhound on His Trail'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  11. ^ Grossman, Lev (July 31, 2014). "In the Kingdom of Ice Brings Cold Comfort". Time Magazine.
  12. ^ Dotinga, Randy (October 18, 2018). "'On Desperate Ground' chronicles the amazing voyage of the US Marines during the Korean War". The Christian Science Monitor.
  13. ^ "Erik Larson's 'Dead Wake,' About the Lusitania". The New York Times Book Review, Sides, Hampton. March 5, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  14. ^ "Science Seeks to Unlock Marijuana's Secrets". National Geographic; Sides, Hampton. June 2015. Archived from the original on May 17, 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  15. ^ "Unseen Titanic". National Geographic; Sides, Hampton. April 2012. Archived from the original on March 27, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  16. ^ "Russian Refuge". National Geographic; Sides, Hampton. May 2013. Archived from the original on April 20, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  17. ^ "1,000 days in the Ice". National Geographic; Sides, Hampton. January 2009. Archived from the original on December 17, 2008. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  18. ^ "Tracing the Steps of Lost Explorers in Miserable, Beautiful Siberia". Outside; Sides, Hampton. July 8, 2014. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  19. ^ "The Man Who Saw Too Much". Outside; Sides, Hampton. December 27, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  20. ^ "Bear Grylls Plays Dirty". Outside; Sides Hampton. April 20, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  21. ^ "Anyone for a Dip?". Outside; Sides, Hampton. October 1, 2007. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  22. ^ "The Birdman Drops In". Outside; Sides, Hampton. January 10, 2002. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  23. ^ "Wake-Up Call: Surviving an Attack by Flesh-Eating Bacteria". Outside; Sides, Hampton. September 18, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  24. ^ "Quadzilla". Outside; Sides, Hampton. January 4, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  25. ^ "The Place Where Two Fell Off". Outside; Sides, Hampton. October 2, 2006. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  26. ^ "The First to Die". Men's Journal; Sides, Hampton. October 2003. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  27. ^ "Life's Rich Pageant". Bicycling; Sides, Hampton. June 20, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  28. ^ "Decades after assassinations, Memphis and Dallas remain hostages of history, says Hampton Sides". The Dallas Morning News; Sides, Hampton. April 4, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  29. ^ "Frozen Assets". The American Scholar; Sides, Hampton. June 3, 2011. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  30. ^ "The Fall of Greg Mortensen and Our Longing for Heroes". Newsweek; Sides, Hampton. April 24, 2011. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  31. ^ "National Defense". The New Yorker; Sides, Hampton. June 7, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  32. ^ "City Portrait: Memphis Tennessee". Garden & Gun; Sides, Hampton. May 2015. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  33. ^ N. Scott Momaday (October 29, 2006). "Cowboys and Indians". The New York Times. "Blood and Thunder" is a full-blown history, and Sides does every part of it justice... By telling this story, Sides fills a conspicuous void in the history of the American West.
  34. ^ Hector Tobar (August 1, 2014). Review: 'Kingdom of Ice' uncovers a polar adventure frozen in time. Sides' book is a masterful work of history and storytelling, and it rewards patient readers with scenes of human strength and frailty they will long remember. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  35. ^ Gary Krist (August 1, 2014). "Book review: "In the Kingdom of Ice," polar voyage of USS Jeannette, by Hampton Sides". The Washington Post. Thanks to Sides's copious mining of primary and first-person sources — including memoirs, official Navy documents, and De Long's journals and private correspondence — readers get to experience at close range the Jeannette crew's trek across the melting ice, this "sorry-looking set" in ignominious retreat from a nonexistent warm-water sea.
  36. ^ Howard Schneider (August 1, 2014). "Book Review: 'In the Kingdom of Ice' by Hampton Sides". The Wall Street Journal.

External links[edit]

External media
audio icon In 1879, Explorers Set Sail To Solve Arctic Mystery, Once And For All, NPR, August 2, 2014
audio icon Hampton Sides: “In the Kingdom of Ice”, Diane Rehm Show, August 14, 2014
audio icon Interview with NPR's Fresh Air, 10-28
video icon Booknotes interview with Sides on Ghost Soldiers, September 30, 2001.