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The New York State Writers Institute Presents: John Freeman Gill


NYS Writers Institute,Thursday, November 16, 2017
7:30 p.m. Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, UAlbany’s Downtown Campus

John Freeman Gill will present the keynote talk at the University at Albany History Department’s annual Researching New York Conference on Thursday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue on the University at Albany’s Downtown Campus.

In a freewheeling illustrated talk titled "Anchoring Flights of Fancy: Research & Imagination in the New York Novel The Gargoyle Hunters," Gill will discuss how his original research into the Woolworth Building provided the factual joists that supported his vivid imagination. He will then read from a nail-biting climactic chapter set in the 1970s atop the landmark skyscraper, in which 13-year-old Griffin Watts is sent by his obsessive father to sever an endangered gargoyle from the 55th floor with a power saw.

The keynote talk, cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute, is free and open to the public.

John Freeman Gill’s debut novel, The Gargoyle Hunters (2017), offers readers a deeply emotional story of a boy and his dad and their connection to a brazen and seemingly impossible architectural heist -- the theft of an entire historic Manhattan building.

Praised by the Washington Post Book World as an “unabashedly charming story,” The Gargoyle Hunters is told in first-person through the eyes of 13-year old Griffin Watts, who helps his father steal 19th century architectural sculptures – gargoyles – right off the faces of buildings in grimy and bustling 1970s New York City.

The Gargoyle Hunters was selected as a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers Pick.” In a review of the book, author Colum McCann said Gill “strips the mask off New York City in this poignant, incisive, irreverent novel about fatherhood, art, obsession, creation, and destruction … [A] wonderful, compelling debut.” The New York Times called it “Marvelously evocative … exuberant … eye-opening … [an] urban Indiana Jones-like escapade.” The Los Angeles Review of Books described it as “extravagantly satisfying.” Annie Proulx, Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author, wrote: “The Gargoyle Hunters is wonderful, strong, funny, with yards and yards of beautiful writing. --Its pages are full of reading pleasures.… Extraordinary.”

Gill, a native New Yorker and an expert on historical architecture, writes “Edifice Complex,” a monthly column in Avenue that explores the biographies of historic New York City buildings and their occupants. He is a longtime New York Times contributor whose work has been anthologized in The New York Times Book of New York and More New York Stories: The Best of the City Section of The New York Times. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, the International Herald Tribune, New York magazine, Premiere, Avenue, The New York Times Book Review, and elsewhere.

A summa cum laude graduate of Yale University, Gill received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. He lives in New York City with his wife, three children, and a smattering of gargoyles. For additional information on Researching New York conference, which runs November 16-18, please visit or call 518-442-5431.