Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mary Pilon

Mary Pilon is the author of The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game, a book about the history of the board game Monopoly (Bloomsbury, February 2015). She previously worked as a sports reporter at The New York Times and a full index of her work there can be found here, including dispatches from the London Olympics, doping coverage, features on legal and financial issues in sports and the occasional video shot from a dog sled or graphic novel about cage fighting in the heartland.

From June 2008 to November 2011, Pilon worked at The Wall Street Journal, where she covered various aspects of personal finance and the financial crisis for print and online editions and regularly appeared on national TV and radio. Among her lesser-known accomplishments: bringing slugs, yo-yos, the NYSE movie room and square dancing to the Journal’s front page.

From Pilon's Q & A with Kelly Faircloth at Jezebel:

How did you come to the project? How did the book happen?

It was a total accident. This was in 2009, 2010; I was writing about business at the Wall Street Journal, and I had grown up loving games, puzzles, all of that, and history. I had this throwaway line in a totally unrelated story about Monopoly being invented during the Great Depression. And I thought, well, everybody knows it was invented during the Great Depression. So I was looking around and looking around, and it wasn't adding up and I was totally frustrated. I'm writing about derivatives and I can't get the Monopoly story right? What's wrong with me?

So I came across Ralph Anspach and his lawsuit. I'm an advocate of the reporter trick of calling counterparties in lawsuits, because often if you sue somebody or you've been sued by somebody, you do a lot of research. I contacted Ralph on a whim and I said, "Hey, I know this is crazy, but I'm a reporter at the Journal and I'm just trying to find out the truth about Monopoly." He wrote back right away. He started talking about his lawsuit and Lizzie and what happened in the 30s with Darrow. And I just was like, Oh my gosh. So I completely stumbled into this by accident.

I ended up writing the original story for the Journal about Ralph and his lawsuit. And then usually, when you're done with a story you're so sick of it, but this time I had more questions. I wanted to know more about who [Lizzie Magie] was, I wanted to know more about...[read on]
Visit Mary Pilon's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Monopolists.

--Marshal Zeringue