Tony Horwitz - SPYING ON THE SOUTH: An Odyssey Across the American Divide

We are sorry to share the very sad news that Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and bestselling author Tony Horwitz died suddenly on Memorial Day, May 27 in Washington, D.C., just four days before he was planning to come to Octavia Books to present his great new book, SPYING ON THE SOUTH: An Odyssey Across the American Divide. In memory of Tony, we will remain open at the 6pm event time. Please join us to read a favorite passage from a Tony Horwitz book, share a memory, say a few words, just listen, or pick up a book to take home.

You can read Tony Horwitz's obituary in  his hometown paper, THE VINEYARD GAZETTE, at

The best-selling author of Confederates in the Attic returns to the South and the Civil War era for an epic adventure on the trail of America’s greatest landscape architect.

In the 1850s, the young Frederick Law Olmsted was adrift, a restless farmer and dreamer in search of a mission. He found it during an extraordinary journey, as an undercover correspondent in the South for the up-and-coming New York Times.

For the Connecticut Yankee, pen name “Yeoman,” the South was alien, often hostile territory. Yet Olmsted traveled for 14 months, by horseback, steamboat, and stagecoach, seeking dialogue and common ground. His vivid dispatches about the lives and beliefs of Southerners—white and black, free and enslaved, rich and poor—were revelatory for readers of his day and have endured as classic texts for the study of America on the brink of cataclysmic break-up.

Yeoman’s remarkable trek also reshaped the American landscape. As a rebuke to the caste-bound ideology of the South’s master class, Olmsted sought to reform his own society by creating democratic spaces for the uplift of all. The result: Central Park and Olmsted’s path-breaking career as America’s foremost landscape architect.

Tony Horwitz rediscovers Yeoman Olmsted amidst the angry discord and polarization of our own time. Is America still one country? In search of answers, and his own adventures, Horwitz follows Olmsted’s tracks and often his mode of transport: through Appalachia, down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, into bayou Louisiana, and across Texas to the contested Mexican borderland.

Venturing, as Olmsted did, far off beaten paths, Horwitz uncovers bracing vestiges of the Cotton Kingdom and strange new mutations that have sprung from its roots. Spying on the South is also a penetrating and poignant study of Olmsted, whose destiny was forged by his Southern odyssey. Horwitz’s wise, intrepid, and often hilarious journey, through an outsized American landscape, is a masterpiece in the tradition of Great Plains, Bad Land, and the author’s own classic, Confederates in the Attic.



Tony Horwitz is a native of Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. As a foreign correspondent, he covered wars and conflict in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe, mainly for the Wall Street Journal.Returning to the U.S., he won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting and wrote for the New Yorker. He has also been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and president of the Society of American Historians. Tony's books include the national bestsellers Confederates in the Attic, Blue Latitudes, Baghdad Without a Map and A Voyage Long and Strange. He and his wife, Puliitzer Prize-winning novelist Geraldine Brooks, have two sons and live in Massachusetts.

Event date: 

Friday, May 31, 2019 - 6:00pm

Event address: 

Octavia Books - 513 Octavia Street - New Orleans, LA 70115
Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101980286
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Press - May 14th, 2019

“With the keen eye and deft pen that he's long brought to telling the odd and wonderful and fascinating story of America, Tony Horwitz has returned to familiar territory—the South—to give us a unique piece of reportage from a region that tells us a whole lot more about the country than the country sometimes wants to admit. Like his classic Confederates in the Attic, this book will be read, remembered, and treasured.” —Jon Meacham, Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian and author of The Soul of America

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