In-Depth Stories: Five Longform Features to Save for the Weekend

In our latest reading list of some of the best longform writing recently published on WordPress, you’ll find stories about a terrifying home invasion, the power of a single tree, a journalist’s attempt to correct the record, and more.

“The Gruesome November Night in One of Washington’s Wealthiest Suburbs,” Jason Fagone

In The Washingtonian, Fagone goes through court documents to piece together a true crime story detailing a couple’s harrowing night in a wealthy suburb.

“Sir, who are you looking for?” he said. “My name is Leo Fisher.”

“I know,” the man replied, then forced the couple into their bedroom so he could begin the interrogation.

That’s the word he used, interrogation, and that’s what the next three hours felt like. The man said he had their house under surveillance and knew they didn’t go out much. He started asking for details about Leo’s firm, using names Leo recognized. The man insisted someone had “put a hit” on Leo for $27,000. When Leo said he didn’t know anyone who would do that, the man asked, “Didn’t you let somebody go lately?”

Photo: Lucas Masters/Flickr CCBY SA 2.0
Photo: Lucas Masters/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“And in the Darkness Bind Them,” K.E. Roberts

At We Are the Mutants, Roberts traces the history of the first Lord of the Rings paperbacks — and J.R.R. Tolkien’s resistance to them — and the establishment of fantasy as a popular genre.

In short, The Lord of the Rings was a literary and cultural blockbuster that became a touchstone and a currency of the coalescing American and British countercultures, as well as an international sensation—Tolkien’s monomyth stretched all the way to Iceland, North Borneo, and Saigon, where South Vietnamese tribesmen were seen carrying shields bearing the lidless eye of Sauron. Wollheim’s obstinacy and Tolkien’s snobbery had collided to set in motion what Betsy Wollheim would later call, absolutely correctly, “the Big Bang that founded the modern fantasy field.”

“A Decade Lived in the Dark,” Ed Caesar

A woman’s memoir about dealing with extreme light sensitivity captivated readers and critics, but medical professionals have questioned the veracity of her story. Writing for the New Yorker, Caesar visits the woman in her home in the U.K. to see if he can get closer to the truth.

“Girl in the Dark” has received widespread media coverage and mostly excellent reviews. The London Sunday Times appreciated its “honesty, bravery and touches of black comedy,” and said that the book had “flashes of bold imagination.” National Public Radio gave the book a rave, praising its “ornery humor” about “the injuries that result from having sex in complete blackness” and “the perils of knitting blind.” A reviewer from the New York Times said that Lyndsey had “the quiet, ingenious consciousness of a poet.” The Times also ran a profile of Lyndsey, describing her as “an author whose rare illness forces her to live in literal darkness.” Some doctors, however, have been puzzled by Lyndsey’s story.

Photo: David Meurin/Flickr CCBY SA 2.0
Photo: David Meurin/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Big Lonely Doug,” Harley Rustad

Is there an economic argument against cutting down trees in an old-growth forest? At The Walrus, Rustad describes how a single tree, and the logger who saved it, is changing the way we see British Columbia’s forests.

“Back in the day, that tree would’ve been cut down,” Cronin said. “I’m glad it grabbed everybody’s attention. Nobody would have ever seen it if we hadn’t logged that piece.” An hour east of Port Renfrew grows the Red Creek Fir, the world’s largest Douglas fir. Nearby is the San Juan Spruce, Canada’s largest Sitka spruce. The Carmanah Giant, Canada’s tallest tree, is located two kilometres off the West Coast Trail. But these and other great trees in the area stand within intact forests and so don’t create the stark contrast that sets Big Lonely Doug apart.

“Ruback,” Michael Brick

Brick was a reporter for The New York Times during 9/11 and contributed to the newspaper’s “Portraits of Grief” series. One particular portrait Brick wrote, 123 words on the life of a firefighter named Paul Ruback, came to haunt him. Before Brick died of cancer earlier this year, he entrusted his friends with a story that would help him correct the record. We’re pleased to have this story published on Longreads.

All lives end unfinished. The field of probate law exists to balance the final intentions of the dead against the rights of their survivors. For those killed on September 11, aside from the pensions and insurance policies and emergency responder death benefits, the government was also assembling a victim compensation fund that would eventually pay the families an average of more than $2 million. These were not insignificant practical concerns. And they paled beside the emotional grief of the surviving families.

Looking for more? Check out the longreads category on Discover, or for more longform story recommendations.

October 14, 2016Books, History, Longreads, Memoir