Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Lee Sandlin  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: in Wildwood, Illinois


-- Website -- http://leesandlin.com/
-- Lee Sandlin on WorldCat -- http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=lee+sandlin


Illinois Connection

Author lives in Chicago

Biographical and Professional Information

Sandlin is an award-winning journalist and essayist who was born in Wildwood, Illinois, and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. He briefly attended the University of Chicago and Roosevelt University before leaving school to travel and write. He currently resides in Chicago.Sandlin has written feature journalism, historical studies, and music reviews on opera and classical works. He has been a regular contributor to the ''Wall Street Journal'' and ''Chicago Reader'', where he was also for many years the TV critic. His essay “Losing the War” was included in the anthology ''The New Kings of Nonfiction''.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild
ISBN: 0307378519

Pantheon. 2010

From award-winning journalist Lee Sandlin comes a riveting look at one of the most colorful, dangerous, and peculiar places in America’s historical landscape: the strange, wonderful, and mysterious Mississippi River of the nineteenth century.


Beginning in the early 1800s and climaxing with the siege of Vicksburg in 1863, Wicked River takes us back to a time before the Mississippi was dredged into a shipping channel, and before Mark Twain romanticized it into myth. Drawing on an array of suspenseful and bizarre firsthand accounts, Sandlin brings to life a place where river pirates brushed elbows with future presidents and religious visionaries shared passage with thieves—a world unto itself where, every night, near the levees of the big river towns, hundreds of boats gathered to form dusk-to-dawn cities dedicated to music, drinking, and gambling. Here is a minute-by-minute account of Natchez being flattened by a tornado

the St. Louis harbor being crushed by a massive ice floe

hidden, nefarious celebrations of Mardi Gras

and the sinking of the Sultana, the worst naval disaster in American history. Here, too, is the Mississippi itself: gorgeous, perilous, and unpredictable, lifeblood to the communities that rose and fell along its banks.


An exuberant work of Americana—at once history, culture, and geography—Wicked River is a grand epic that portrays a forgotten society on the edge of revolutionary change.

The Distancers: An American Memoir
ISBN: 034580676X

Vintage. 2013

In The Distancers, seven generations worth of joy and heartache is artfully forged into a family portrait that is at once universally American yet singularly Lee Sandlin's own. From the nineteenth century German immigrants who settled on a small Midwestern farm, to the proud and upright aunts and uncles with whom Sandlin spent the summers of his youth, a whole history of quiet ambition and stoic pride—of successes, failures, and above all endurance—leaps off the page in a sweeping American family epic. Touching on The Great Depression, WWII, and

the American immigrant experience, The Distancers is a beautiful and stark Midwestern drama, about a time and place long since vanished, where the author learned the value of family and the art of keeping one's distance.

Storm Kings: The Untold History of America's First Tornado Chasers
ISBN: 0307378527

Pantheon. 2013

With 16 pages of black-and-white illustrations

From the acclaimed author of Wicked River comes Storm Kings, a riveting tale of supercell tornadoes and the quirky, pioneering, weather-obsessed scientists whose discoveries created the science of modern meteorology.


While tornadoes have occasionally been spotted elsewhere, only the central plains of North America have the perfect conditions for their creation. For the early settlers the sight of a funnel cloud was an unearthly event. They called it the “Storm King,” and their descriptions bordered on the supernatural: it glowed green or red, it whistled or moaned or sang. In Storm Kings, Lee Sandlin explores America’s fascination with and unique relationship to tornadoes. From Ben Franklin’s early experiments to the “great storm war” of the nineteenth century to heartland life in the early twentieth century, Sandlin re-creates with vivid descriptions some of the most devastating storms in America’s history, including the Tri-state Tornado of 1925 and the Peshtigo “fire tornado,” whose deadly path of destruction was left encased in glass.


Drawing on memoirs, letters, eyewitness testimonies, and archives, Sandlin brings to life the forgotten characters and scientists who changed a nation—including James Espy, America’s first meteorologist, and Colonel John Park Finley, who helped place a network of weather “spotters” across the country. Along the way, Sandlin details the little-known but fascinating history of the National Weather Service, paints a vivid picture of the early Midwest, and shows how successive generations came to understand, and finally coexist with, the spiraling menace that could erase lives and whole towns in an instant.


Availability for Public Speaking

Speaking Engagement Availability: (Yes)

Sandlin is represented by Browne & Miller Literary Associates: [mailto:mail@browneandmiller.com mail@browneandmiller.com]