Lawrence Wright

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Lawrence Wright
Wright in 2018
Wright in 2018
Born (1947-08-02) August 2, 1947 (age 76)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
OccupationJournalist, Writer
Alma materTulane University (BA)
American University of Cairo (MA)
Notable worksThe Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
Notable awardsPulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction (2007)

Lawrence Wright (born August 2, 1947) is an American writer and journalist, who is a 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 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. His 2020 novel, The End of October, a thriller about a pandemic, was released in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic,[1] to generally positive reviews.[2]

Background and education[edit]

Wright graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas, in 1965 and was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2009.[3] He is a graduate of Tulane University and taught English at the American University in Cairo (from which he was awarded a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics in 1969) in Egypt for two years.[4] Wright lives in Austin, Texas.[5]


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.[4]

The Looming Tower[edit]

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.[6] A quick bestseller, The Looming Tower was awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize,[7] 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.[8]

Going Clear[edit]

In 2011, Wright wrote a profile of former Scientologist Paul Haggis for The New Yorker.[9][10]

Starting with Haggis and eventually speaking with 200 current and former Scientologists,[11] Wright's book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, was published in 2013. The book contains interviews from current and former Scientologists, and examines the history and leadership of the organisation.[11][12] In an interview for The New York Times, Wright disclosed that he had received "innumerable" letters threatening legal action from lawyers representing the Church of Scientology and celebrities who were members of it.[11]

The New York Times published Michael Kinsley's review of the book, where he wrote: "That crunching sound you hear is Lawrence Wright bending over backward to be fair to Scientology. Every deceptive comparison with Mormonism and other religions is given a respectful hearing. Every ludicrous bit of church dogma is served up deadpan. This makes the book's indictment that much more powerful."[13]

In 2015, Alex Gibney produced a documentary based on Wright's book, titled Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. The film was nominated for seven Emmy Awards, winning three,[14] and received a 2015 Peabody Award "for its detailed documentation of Scientology's history and abuses."[15]

Other projects[edit]

Among Wright's other books are 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.[citation needed]

Wright 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.[16] A script that Wright originally wrote for Oliver Stone was turned instead into a well-regarded Showtime movie, Noriega: God's Favorite (2000).[citation needed]

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.[17] My Trip to Al-Qaeda looks at al-Qaeda, Islamist extremism, anti-American sentiment and the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq and combines Wright's first-person narrative with documentary footage and photographs.[18]

Wright plays the keyboard in the Austin, Texas, blues collective WhoDo.[4]

Wright is also a playwright. He has worked on a script over several years concerning the making of the epic film Cleopatra that starred Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Rex Harrison. The play is titled Cleo and was to have opened September 2017 in Houston, Texas, but was delayed by catastrophic flooding caused by hurricane Harvey. It eventually opened in April 2018.[19]

Awards and honors[edit]



  • City Children, Country Summer : A Story of Ghetto Children Among the Amish. Scribner. 1979. ISBN 0684161443. OL 4400491M.
  • In the New World: Growing up with America, 1964–1984. Alfred A. Knopf. 1988. ISBN 978-0-394-75964-7.
  • Saints and Sinners. Alfred A. Knopf. 1993. ISBN 978-0-679-76163-1.
  • Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory. Vintage Books. 1994. ISBN 978-0-679-75582-1.
  • Twins: And What They Tell Us About Who We Are. John Wiley & Sons. 1997. ISBN 978-0-471-29644-7.
  • The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Alfred A. Knopf. 2006. ISBN 978-0-375-41486-2.
  • Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Alfred A. Knopf. 2013. ISBN 978-0-307-70066-7.
  • Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David. Alfred A. Knopf. 2014. ISBN 978-0-385-35203-1.[a]
  • The Terror Years: From Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State. Alfred A. Knopf. 2016. ISBN 978-0-385-35205-5.
  • God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State. Alfred A. Knopf. 2018. ISBN 978-0-525-52010-8.
  • The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid. Alfred A. Knopf. 2021.


Essays and reporting[edit]


  1. ^ "Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist Lawrence Wright". YouTube. November 3, 2015. Archived from the original on December 18, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  2. ^ Title in the online table of contents is "Palmyra, from Zenobia to ISIS".


  1. ^ "The End of October". Penguin Random House. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  2. ^ "The End of October | Book Marks". Literary Hub. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  3. ^ Unmuth, Katherine Leal (April 26, 2009). "Alumni gather to celebrate Woodrow Wilson High's 80th anniversary". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on April 28, 2009. Retrieved August 21, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c "Lawrence Wright: About". Retrieved September 17, 2013.
  5. ^ Kevin Williamson (February 21, 2019). "AUSTIN CITY LIMITS". Claremont Review of Books. Retrieved March 13, 2019. Wright doesn't live in Texas—he lives in Austin
  6. ^ "Lawrence Wright: "The Looming Tower" | Talks at Google". YouTube. October 5, 2007. Archived from the original on December 18, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  7. ^ "J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project winners". Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Retrieved March 16, 2011.
  8. ^ Wright, Lawrence (2006). The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. New York: Knopf. p. 350. ISBN 978-0-375-41486-2.
  9. ^ "The Apostate : Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology". The New Yorker. February 6, 2011.
  10. ^ Thornton, Kim (November 17, 2012). "Lawrence Wright's Book on Church of Scientology Coming in January". Knopf Publishers.
  11. ^ a b c Mcgrath, Charles (January 3, 2013). "Scientology Fascinates the Author Lawrence Wright". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Evening With Lawrence Wright on Scientology". YouTube. May 10, 2013. Archived from the original on December 18, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  13. ^ Kinsley, Michael (January 17, 2013). "Eyes Wide Shut : 'Going Clear,' Lawrence Wright's Book on Scientology". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 1, 2013.
  14. ^ "Creative Arts Emmys 2015: Full Winners List". Variety. September 12, 2015.
  15. ^ "Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief". Peabody Awards. 2015.
  16. ^ Amos, Deborah (March 30, 2007). "Lawrence Wright's 'Trip to Al-Qaeda'". National Public Radio.
  17. ^ "Journalism and Media Lecture Series: Lawrence Wright". YouTube. February 26, 2010. Archived from the original on December 18, 2021. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  18. ^ "Synopsis". HBO Documentaries: My Trip to Al-Qaeda. Archived from the original on August 25, 2010. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  19. ^ Hoinski, Michael (March 30, 2018). "This Movie Romance Scandalized a Nation. Now It's a Drama Onstage". New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  20. ^ "2013 National Book Award Finalists Announced".
  21. ^ "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. January 14, 2014. Archived from the original on January 15, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.

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