Winning the Pulitzer Gets Author Free Dental Care

by James McGrath Morris

On the weekend of April 13-14, biographer Tom Reiss was suffering from a terrible toothache. To his good fortune his dentist had an opening in the afternoon of Monday, April 15. As he took his seat in the dentist chair around 3 PM, the only thing Reiss anticipated was relief from the pain.

But his phone began to ring. At first, he told the dentist to ignore it, but the insistent ringing finally prompted Reiss to check his messages. What he heard were the screaming voices of his agent and publisher congratulating him but without leaving him any clue as to why. The dental hygienist turned to the computer displaying Reiss’s X-rays and Googled his name. His book, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, had just been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

“The first autograph I signed as a Pulitzer Prize winner was for my dentist,” said Reiss. “He later sent me an email saying that that day’s work was on the house.”

Reiss, who makes his home in New York City with his wife and daughters, is the author of The Orientalist, the biography of a Jewish man who transformed himself into a Muslim prince and became a best-selling author in Nazi Germany. Reiss’s new book, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer, is also an unusual tale, but with a long gestation.

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