1:30 PM to 1:55 PM
Writing History that’s Stranger than Fiction
Why would a historian who lives in Arkansas – and not even in the towns of Greenland, Snowball, or Snow Lake, Arkansas – write about an ill-fated Arctic expedition? David Welky will share true-life stories of survival from his most recent book, describe the monkish but sometimes exciting existence of a historian at work, and discuss how he employs techniques borrowed from literature and cinema to make the past come alive.
About David Welky
David Welky is a failed grocery-store clerk, group-home attendant, house painter, roofer, musician, pizza cook, and accounting major who decided the best way to make sense of his world was to study the past. He earned a Ph.D. from Purdue University and is a Professor of American History at the University of Central Arkansas.
Welky’s works follow ordinary people responding to moments of great change, stress, and crisis. His books include The Moguls and the Dictators: Hollywood and the Coming of World War II; Marching Across the Color Line: A. Philip Randolph and Civil Rights in the World War II Era; and The Thousand-Year Flood: The Ohio-Mississippi Disaster of 1937, winner of the Booker Worthen Literary Prize and a Kirkus “Best Nonfiction Book” for 2011. His writings have also appeared in the New York Times, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, and the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Lithub, Longitude, The Page 99 Test, and elsewhere.
Welky’s most recent book, A Wretched and Precarious Situation: In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier, recounts the epic tale of the 1913-1917 Crocker Land Expedition, seven Americans who embarked on a quixotic quest to explore Crocker Land, a new continent (allegedly) discovered by the famed Arctic adventurer Robert Peary. After enduring blizzards, shipwrecks, starvation, and even murder, they discover that their fate has been wrapped in a tangle of lies. Hailed as an “engrossing account” by Nature and as “a penetrating study of human character” by Natural History, A Wretched and Precarious Situation was a Kirkus Best Nonfiction Book for 2016 and a Booklist Best Literary Travel Book for 2017.
Born in St. Louis, Welky now lives in Conway, Arkansas, with his wife and two children, all heavy readers. He is currently working on a book about the Roosevelt family during World War II.