Author: Mike Sager Category:

Coming Soon!

Hunting Marlon Brando and Other Stories: Five Decades in the American Underbelly  (1978-2020)

“Sager has made a career of finding the unexpected story and telling it with empathy and narrative skill—a talent that’s on display throughout this eclectic and consistently arresting collection.”–Publishers Weekly

For five decades, award-winning journalist Mike Sager has, according to one reviewer, “writes about places and events we seldom get a look at — and people from whom we avert our eyes.” Hunting Marlon Brando collects twenty of the bestselling author’s favorite true stories about boys and men from vastly diverse worlds, all of them living their own versions of the American Experience. Through their collective eyes, we get an up-close look at the cultural DNA of the 21st-century American male.

We attend the “Superbowl of Rodeo” with the world’s winningest professional cowboy, a deep dive into the red state Western Ideal. We meet the members of a once-proud street gang whose fortunes were lost in a cloud of crack smoke; a pair of near-feral brothers living in the slums and fighting stolen pit bulldogs to the death; a seven-foot six-inch, Sudanese-born pro-basketball player who broke his front teeth on the rim the first time he tried to dunk. He goes on to become one of the best shot-blockers in the history of the National Basketball Association.

We spend time with blue-collar tweakers in Hawaii; white supremacists in Idaho, and near-fatally hip heroin addicts on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. We meet the Reverend Al Sharpton early in his career, when the civil rights figure and mainstream chat show host was vilified and feared by many Americans of all races. A road trip across the continent brings Sager eyeball to eyeball with a number of America’s smartest men (and one woman) and demonstrates that having a super high IQ can be as much of a handicap as an advantage. In Thailand, we meet dozens of retired American soldiers who decided, after the Vietnam war, that they’d rather set down roots in the Land of Smiles than return home. Life as an ex-pat: You’re home and yet you ain’t. 

And we spend quality time with Charlie Van Dyke, 650 pounds, a fat man in a low-fat world; Bill Hicks, destined for mainstream comedy stardom until tragedy struck; and NBA lightning rod Kobe Bryant, who lifted the craft of basketball into compelling art . . . before leaving the earth suddenly and too soon. Sager’s personal tribute follows.

Anchoring the collection is the tale of Sager’s worldwide hunt for superstar actor Marlon Brando—a true story, commissioned by the Washington Post, of far-flung travel, grandiose schemes, tropical adventure, Hollywood superstardom, journalistic coming of age . . . and a beautiful Tahitian translator, who puts the mission in jeopardy when she suddenly disappears. Brando’s work as an actor paved the way for two generations of screen actors. In the process, he created a distinct template for American manhood—tough yet tender, flawed, mercurial, quixotic—that is only today being re-engineered under the auspices of a newly woke society. A classic piece up-dated with 30 percent new material, also available as an audiobook, with sound-scaping and musical score.

Bonus material: With the permission of the Washington Post, the anthology includes six of Sager’s earliest long newspaper features. Some of the stories collected in Hunting Marlon Brando were previously published in Wounded Warriors, from Da Capo Press, now out of print.

“Mike Sager writes about places and events we seldom get a look at — and people from whom we avert our eyes. But with Sager in command of all the telling details, he shows us history, humanity, humor, sometimes even honor. He makes us glad to live with our eyes wide open.”— Richard Ben Cramer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What It Takes: The Way to the White House and Joe Dimaggio: The Hero’s Life

“This collection of pieces from Mike Sager is just brilliant—brave, written with soul and beauty, and unflinching in the depiction of a real America that needs to be revealed. Bravo to Sager for being one of the few writers left willing to do it.”–Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City

“Because Sager is such a charismatic observer, skilled interviewer and pyrotechnic stylist, his magazine stories are haunting, memorable. Book publishers, fortunately, have recognized the universality of Sager’s stories, placing them conveniently between book covers.”–Denver Post