The audience was hungry for fact-based information. The pre-show chatter turned the atmosphere ripe, embodied by the woman to my left who discussed how her interests in ISIS stemmed from people she lost on 9-11 in the World Trade Center. From my third row seat, the chatter about me abound with curiosity and the desired hope to learn with the aim of understanding the baffling threat of terrorism.
Joby Warrick strolled onto the stage. His relaxed demeanor put the audience at ease, as though they were talking to a friendly face at the bus stop. Yet, even from my seat, it quickly crystallized that beneath the persona was a journalistic mind churning serious thoughts every few seconds. Thoughts he tossed to an eager audience in a nearly sold-out auditorium at the MJCCA in Dunwoody, Georgia.
Author of this year's Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction, Black Flags: The Rise Of ISIS, Mr. Warrick engaged with the moderator, Gail Evans, who use to be at CNN, and relayed parts of his book but explained in layman terms how ISIS came to be and the role of many of the principal players. It was Mr. Warrick's effort at explaining in full detail - no question being to lame or time consuming - so everyone would understand that won the audience over. They could've listened to him for another hour and not even noticed the time.
There were tell-tale signs in the questions and comments of the audience. Even before the show began, one easily picked up on the fact that no matter what political party of belief one associated themselves with, no one is happy with a Trump/Clinton election. The ridicule for both candidates laced many questions and no one was buying into their solutions in dealing with groups like ISIS. Mr. Warrick did well to walk that fine line of neutrality. A good journalist knows when not to show his true thoughts in order to get the story.
I haven't read the book yet but clearly, it is in the short stack on my desk that I will tackle shortly. When I do I will be posting a review of it but from the presentation I can already tell you it is worthy purchase.
One more note from last night. In the autograph line to get books signed, Mr. Warrick took time to engage with people for an extra minute. He did connect with them on a personal level both during the presentation and afterwards. I bring this up because many writers - and it makes sense if you think about it - try to move the line along as quickly as possible. He seems to be a genuine nice guy. I hope he keeps that down to earth quality even as the book is turned into an HBO movie. I also hope the movie process doesn't mess with his writing mindset as it is a whole different beast.
Last night was enjoyable and I look forward to diving into the book. If you get a chance to see Mr. Warrick somewhere, do so. He is worth the time. And if he doesn't come to a town hear you, definitely pick up the book.