Gerald Kolpan

Magic Words

The tale of a Jewish boy-interpreter, the world's most estimable magician, a murderous harlot, and America's greatest indian chief

by gerald-kolpan Read about him

GERALD KOLPAN was born in New York City and grew up in New Rochelle, NY.

Gerald Kolpan

Author Gerald Kolpan

He came to Philadelphia to attend The Philadelphia College of Art (now The University of the Arts) from which he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. After college, Gerald launched several successful careers. He was an illustrator for books, magazines and advertising for over a decade and later became an advertising copywriter and art director. At the dawn of the punk era, he even fronted a rock band.

When the advertising business began to bore him, Gerald set his sights on a writing career. Beginning as a freelancer, he wrote articles for newspapers nationwide. Some of his clients have included the Los Angeles Times, the Milwaukee Journal, the Miami Herald and both the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News . He also wrote the column, “Fulminations” for City Paper, Philadelphia’s leading alternative weekly.

In 1979, Gerald launched his media career. Beginning as a volunteer at the University of Pennsylvania’s radio station, he eventually gained national notice as a contributor to National Public Radio’s news program “All Things Considered.” His witty commentaries and unique feature reports were favorite “kickers,” often closing the nightly broadcast. He was also a contributor to the WNYC radio series “Future Forward.”

In 1987, WTXF television hired Gerald to be its features reporter. He remained at the station for the next twenty years earning eight Emmy Awards. In addition to his stories for the station, his work was often seen nationally and internationally on the Fox News Channel and CNN.

In March 2009, Ballantine Books published his first novel, Etta, a fictionalized account of the life of Etta Place, purported girlfriend of the Sundance Kid. The book received stellar reviews from Kirkus, Library Journal; Publishers Weekly; The Denver Post; The San Francisco Chronicle; the Chicago Sun-Times; the Philadelphia Inquirer; the Philadelphia City PaperOK!magazine; Booklist and the Newark Star Ledger among others. The American Library Association named Etta one of the seven best works of historical fiction of 2009. Currently, it maintains a four-star rating on Amazon.

In November, 2010, Gerald became a part of Akashic Books’ phenomenally successful “Noir” series, with the publication of the anthology, Philadelphia Noir. Gerald’s contribution is The Ratcatcher: the story of a Philly lowlife and his introduction to show business. Typically for Gerald, the story is set at the turn of the last century.

In May, 2012, Pegasus Books published Magic Words, the story of two historical figures: Julius Meyer, a Jewish immigrant who came to the United States in 1867 and became the interpreter for such famous Indian chiefs as Sitting Bull, Red Cloud and Standing Bear, and Alexander Herrmann, his cousin who becomes the most famous magician in the world. Booklist said of the novel, “The complex, nonstop action, laced with humor and romance, is as dazzling and suspenseful as Alexander’s uncanny performances. But Kolpan’s magical feats include more than conjuring diverse, intricately detailed historical settings and heart-revving predicaments. He also offers sensitive revelations of the horrific suffering of Native Americans forced from their homelands, crimes and tragedies he thoughtfully parallels with the bloodshed and exile endured by Jews. In all, a distinctively insightful and bewitching work of compassionate historical fiction by an adept novelist one hopes has lots more tricks up his sleeves.”

Gerald Kolpan lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Joan Weiner. Their daughter, Kate is in graduate school and their son, Ned is a fledgling screenwriter.

Photo credit: Jonathan Rubin/Studio Nine