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The reality narrator

Adam Leith Gollner, BA 04
July 4, 2022
By Charlie Fidelman

Montreal writer Adam Leith Gollner is best known for his true crime stories, many of which have been optioned for films and documentaries.

Former editor-in-chief of of VICE magazine, Gollner is also the author five books: The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession, The Book of Immortality, Working in the Bathtub: Conversations with the Immortal Dany Laferrière, Wildness: An Ode to Newfoundland and Labrador and An Illustrated Catalog of American Fruits & Nuts.

His nonfiction work has been published in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and GQ, among others, and draws on cinematic elements. Gollner also teaches narrative non-fiction writing in Montreal and Turin, Italy.

On writing

"You need so much perseverance and determination. The tenacity to write doesn’t make a lot of sense. I liken it to my fascination with mountain goats climbing a sheer rock face. How do they get up so high? You have to take risks. Once you’re there, the view is spectacular."

On the meaning of success

"I’m always astonished that I’m making a living at this. I’m at my desk practicing my craft in isolation — I don’t feel like a success. What I love is when you have a sentence that comes together properly or a scene that flows. I’m a working writer who is motivated by the desire to share stories.”

Career challenges

"Every story requires months of research. You must demonstrate that you have access to the individuals and documents you need to write the story. That’s just to get the go-ahead or the contract. For example, when I wrote "The Secrets of the World's Greatest Jailbreak Artist," for GQ Rédoine Faïd was in solitary confinement and inaccessible. I eventually got his story after his niece agreed to relay our messages back and forth.”

Inspiring professor

"I was a teaching assistant for Marc Gervais, a Jesuit priest and professor in the Department of Communication Studies. He was also one of the world’s foremost scholars of Swedish film director and writer Ingmar Bergman. Gervais instilled in me a sense that stories can transform our lives.”

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