About the Author
SPIN: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story
Around the World on Two Wheels
Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride
(and great-grandnephew of Annie Londonderry)
For more than four years, starting in 2003, I painstakingly reconstructed Annie’s audacious journey by finding thousands of old newspaper accounts, long lost letters, scrapbooks, and the occasional photograph. Initially, with no family lore to guide me, I chased Annie through snow-covered cemeteries, across cyberspace, and along countless miles of highways and by-ways that eventually united me with Annie’s only grandchild, my second cousin-once removed, Mary Levy Goldiner. The result was Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride (Citadel Press) published in 2007.
In the years since Around the World on Two Wheels was published, a short documentary film has been made about her (The New Woman) and a musical called Spin, inspired by Annie, has toured all across Canada. Another musical, Ride, was produced in London in early 2020 and moved on in 2022 to London’s Charing Cross Theatre and then, in 2023, to Southwark Playhouse Elephant where it earned rave reviews. Ride will have it’s U.S. debut in April 2024 at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater. A third theatrical production in Vicenza, Italy, Per Il Mondo in Bicicletta, with Annie as the narrator, premiered in the summer of 2021, and a comedy, The Wheel Woman, had its debut at the Orlando Shakes Theater Festival in October, 2020. A street in Bend, Oregon has been named for her. A French soap maker created a hand soap with her image, a London fragrance company created a body oil called The Annie to celebrate her, and Olivia Brion & Cantadora wines of Napa, California recently released a wine named in her honot. The book itself has been translated and published in German, Italian, Korean, and Czech. Great Big Story, a subsidiary of CNN, produced a short animated feature. Articles have appeared in dozens of publications around the world, book chapters have been written, countless blog posts have appeared, and a children’s book is coming in the Spring of 2024 called Pedal, Balance, Steer by Vivian Kirkfield. Annie was also the subject of an episode of the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum. In November 2019, as part of its “Overlooked” series of belated obituaries of women and people of color overlooked in their time, The New York Times ran a full-length obituary of Annie. The same obituary appeared the next day in The Boston Globe. The West End Museum, dedicated to keeping alive the memory of Boston’s old West End neighborhood, the neighborhood Annie fled in 1894 and which was razed during the “urban renewal” wave of the 1950s, mounted an exhibit about her in 2020. I had an 1890 era Sterling bicycle restored and painted the color of Annie’s (cream white), a bicycle that was loaned as part of an exhibition on women and cycling to the Bloomfield Museum of Science in Israel and which then traveled to Germany and Poland. Annie was also featured in an exhibit at Bici Lab Andorra, a cycling museum in the capital city of the tiny European country of Andorra. Many dozens of pieces of Annie-inspired art have popped up on Instagram and even on streets around the world.
On June 1, 2021, my first novel, Spin, based on Annie’s story, was published by Pegasus Books. In Spin, a work of historical fiction, I revisited and reimagined Annie’s story as she might have told it late in her life to her only grandchild Mary. In November 2023, Annie and Spin were featured in a clue on Celebrity Jeopardy!, marking Annie’s arrival at the summit of American pop culture zeitgeist: “Annie Londonderry inspired the 2021 novel ‘Spin,’ about her historic 19th century trip around the world on one of these.” The answer, or since Jeopardy! answers must be in the form of a question, was, of course, “what is a bicycle?”
Annie’s story has been rescued from the dustbin of history and it’s been gratifying to watch it make its way out in the world to say the least. (You can find links related to some of these development on the Press page.)
I am a freelance journalist and author whose work has appeared regularly in The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor. I have also written for The Los Angeles Times, Parade Magazine, AARP Magazine and numerous other publications in the U.S. and abroad. I’m the author of the New York Times best-seller, Rescue Road: One Man, Thirty Thousand Dogs, and a Million Miles on the Last Hope Highway (Sourcebooks, 2015) and Rescued: What Second-Chance Dogs Teach Us About Living With Purpose, Loving With Abandon, and Finding Joy in the Little Things (TarcherPerigee, 2017). My most recent book prior to Spin was The Dog Went Over the Mountain: Travels with Albie: An American Journey (Pegasus Books, 2019). Inspired by a re-reading of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, I took our late rescue dog Albie on a 9,200-mile odyssey around the United States. The Dog Went Over the Mountain is the story of that journey and the winner of a Lowell Thomas Award (silver), given by The Society of American Travel Writers Foundation, for Best Travel Book 2019-20.
I am also the co-author, with the late Thomas B. Graboys, M.D., of Life in the Balance: A Physician’s Memoir of Life, Love and Loss with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia (Union Square Press, 2008), with the late Robert P. Smith of Riches Among the Ruins: Adventures in the Dark Corners of the Global Economy (Amacom, 2009), and, with my wife Judith Gelman of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars and Restaurants, of Mad Men (SmartPop/BenBella, 2011) and The Unofficial Girls Guide to New York: Inside the Cafes, Clubs, and Neighborhoods of HBO’s Girls (SmartPop/BenBella, 2013).
Before I started writing books, I practiced law for a few years and taught legal research and writing at the Northwestern University School of Law and the University of Virginia Law School. I then worked for nearly a decade as the Public Affairs Director of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), winner of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, and was privileged to be part of the IPPNW delegation that traveled to Oslo to receive the prize.
I’m a graduate of Amherst College and Boston College Law School. My wife Judy and I live in Massachusetts with our rescue dogs, Salina and Tot, both of whom came from Louisiana. We also have two grown sons.