Stew Magnuson
AUTHOR

Stew Magnuson

A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Stew Magnuson is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist and the author of The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder, an award-winning nonfiction book published by Texas Tech University Press and recently rereleased as an audio book by Audible. His latest works are: The Last American Highway: A Journey Through Time Down U.S. Route 83 in Texas; The Last American Highway: A Journey Through Time Down U.S. Route 83: The Dakotas, part one of his Highway 83 Chronicles series, and the second installment, The Last American Highway: Nebraska Kansas Oklahoma edition. He also penned Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding, which was released by Now & Then Reader in eBook format and separately as a paperback ahead of the 40th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Occupation. The Nebraska Center of the Book named The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder the 2009 Nebraska Book of the Year in the nonfiction category. Graphic artist Lindsay Starr was also honored for her work on the cover design. The Nebraska Literary Heritage Association, in partnership with the Nebraska State Historical Society and the Nebraska Library Commission, chose The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder: And Other True Stories from the Nebraska-Pine Ridge Border Towns for its list of Nebraska books that “represent the best literature produced from Nebraska during the past 150 years” to mark the state’s sesquicentennial in 2017. Magnuson was a resident of Tokyo on March 20, 1995 when the apocalyptic cult, Aum Shinrikyo, released nerve gas in the subway system. He has published one novel, The Song of Sarin, based on his experiences and research into the incident. The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder won ForeWord magazine's bronze medal in the regional nonfiction category. The Center of Great Plains Studies also nominated the work as the 2008 Great Plains Distinguished Book of the Year. It was also nominated as the Writers' League of Texas nonfiction book of the year. In 2006, Amazon.com Shorts posted an abridged excerpt of the book, "The Battle of Whiteclay," which was named by the editors as one of the top five nonfiction pieces published during the website's inaugural year. Magnuson is a former foreign correspondent who has filed stories from Japan, Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Mali and Indonesia. He has worked as a reporter for The Cambodia Daily, the Asahi Shimbun, Kyodo News Service, Space News, Education Daily, and is now managing editor of National Defense Magazine. He has contributed articles to the Christian Science Monitor, Reuters, Defense News, and numerous other publications. He was part of the team that successfully published a daily newspaper during a coup d'etat in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in July 1997. Magnuson has traveled to all 50 U.S. states and visited or lived in 50 countries, including the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, where he served in the Peace Corps, and Peshawar, Pakistan, where he worked with Afghan refugees in the late 1980s. He has also attended games at 117 professional baseball parks. Magnuson began work on The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder in 2003 after wrapping up a year of freelance writing in Southern California -- although his interest in the Nebraska-Pine Ridge border towns dated back to 1999 when he covered unrest in the town of Whiteclay for the Christian Science Monitor. During the intervening years, he kept track of the ongoing problems in Whiteclay, a hamlet that sells million of cans of beer per year to residents of the reservation, where alcohol is banned. He always thought that there might be a larger story to investigate, but his career had taken him out of the area -- first to Washington, D.C, then to Los Angeles. "Freelancing is not free," he explains. "I made a living in L.A., but I had little savings to show for it." He found himself in Papillion, Nebraska, in 2003 between jobs and between coasts, as he looked for a permanent reporting job. To occupy his time, he attended hearings on Whiteclay at the Nebraska Unicameral, and demonstrations protesting the state's border-town law enforcement policies. An offer to cat-sit for friends in Lincoln was a turning point. While there, he followed up on a lead from a UNL law professor, who had offered him Nebraska State Patrol documents and video tapes of the 1999 Whiteclay troubles. At the same time, he spent his days researching the topic at the Nebraska State Historical Society. It was while pouring over microfilm when he first heard about the controversial 1972 death of Raymond Yellow Thunder in Gordon, Nebraska. Believing that there was an important, untold story about the 130-year shared history of the white settlers of Sheridan County, Nebraska, and the Oglala Lakotas of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, he decided to end his job search and throw himself into the project. "It was kind of a 'if not now, when?' situation," he says. "But I didn't have any money." To raise funds for the research, he secured a job in a salmon-canning factory in Ketchikan, Alaska. At one point, he worked seven weeks without a day off -- often at 16-hour stretches. The experience earned him enough money to live for four months in Gordon, where he carried out the bulk of the research. Since then, he has returned to the area a half-dozen times. In total, he conducted more than 70 interviews for the project. Magnuson graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1987 with a degree in English. He attended the university's School of Journalism and worked for several years at the student newspaper, The Daily Nebraskan. In September 2007, Texas Tech University Press accepted The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder as part of its Plains Histories series, which is edited by UNL professor of history and journalism, John. R. Wunder.
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