The writer Paul Kix (USA), New York, New York, August 11, 2017. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

Now working as ESPN deputy editor, Iowa native shares tale of French aristocrat

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Stepping out of his work in journalism, ESPN Deputy Editor Paul Kix writes a book over the legendary Robert de La Rochefoucauld.

By Sarah Stortz

sarah-stortz@uiowa.edu

Taking everything he learned as an investigative journalist, Paul Kix composed a story detailing the work of one the greatest spies in history.

Kix will head to Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque at 7 p.m. April 10 to read from his latest book, The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando.

Originally from Hubbard, Iowa, Kix received a B.A. in journalism from Iowa State in 2003.

Kix used his journalistic talent for several publications, contributing stories for The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal. Currently, he serves as the deputy editor for ESPN The Magazine.

The Saboteur focuses on the historical figure Robert de La Rochefoucauld, a French aristocrat who worked as an anti-Nazi saboteur during World War II. Coming from one of the wealthiest families in France, La Rochefoucauld escaped to England during the Nazi invasion, where he learned the skills to become a spy.

The book’s has achieved immense success since its release, and it has been optioned by Dreamworks Studio to become a feature-length film. When Kix first received the news, he recalled sitting at ESPN editing a story about the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I just couldn’t focus,” Kix said. “There was nothing I could do to focus myself for the next hour.”

Outside of Iowa City, Kix will have various readings in different Iowa towns, including Marshalltown, Ames, and Ottumwa.

Nathan Wilson, a faculty member at Indian Hills Community College, helped organize the event in his city.

“He has Iowa roots, so from that aspect, we’re excited,” Wilson said.

Kix recalls whenever he was in Iowa City, he would often stop at Prairie Lights to explore the various books the establishment offered.

“When you come from a place like Hubbard, Iowa, there’s not a whole lot of people who share your ambition to become an author,” Kix said. “To a certain extent, it’s kind of surreal that I’ll be doing a reading at Prairie Lights.”

Kix specified that it wasn’t necessarily a biography de La Rochefoucauld’s life but rather an examination of his occupation as a privileged man.

“Robert didn’t need to do anything with what he did, but I found that what he was so courageous that I wanted to write a book about him,” Kix said.

Aside from reporting, he said, he always wanted to write a book. He was finally pushed when he read La Rochefoucauld’s obituary, wanting to make a story out of it.

In preparation for writing the book, he needed to bring out his skills as an investigative reporter, such as digging up military records, negotiating with bureaucracies, and reading on older books.

“The journalism I’ve done serves as a nice complement to this book,” Kix said. “It was the hardest things I’ve done, but it was also the most satisfying thing I’ve done professionally. Robert was so amazing, so in some ways, I just had to step out of the way and let the reporting show.”

Joy Kix, Paul Kix’s mother, also used to be his kindergarten teacher. When he was young, she could tell her son had an affinity for writing.

“What was nice, and I feel really proud generally with my students, is that I let students write from their own perspective,” Joy Kix said.

Even when he was involved in 4-H as a child, Joy Kix could tell he was the type to give effective presentations.

“I noticed that he wasn’t interested in farming, but he was interested in telling stories,” Joy Kix said.

What: Paul Kix reading from *The Saboteur*
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque
Admission: Free

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