David Wright

Away, Running


My mother, a Jew who survived the Nazi occupation of France, immigrated to the US in the fifties. I was raised in small-town West Texas, more Friday Night Lights than Maus. After attending college in Minnesota, I lived abroad for five years. I led a group that built a medical dispensary in the Ivory Coast, pulled pints in a London pub, traveled overland from Brazil to the US. In Paris, I banged out features on American sports for the French-language magazines US Foot and SportTonic and decided I wanted to try to become a writer.

My first book, Fire on the Beach: Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers (Scribner 2001, Oxford University Press paper 2002), was a New Yorker notable selection and one of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s “Best Books of 2001.”  I wrote the screenplay for the documentary, Rescue Men, based on the book. Magic Johnson’s Aspire network premiered it on September 15, 2012. My second book, Away Running (Orca Book Publishers 2016), has been called “action-packed” and “fast moving” yet “introspective,” “nuanced” and “timely.” It is a USBBY "Outstanding International Book" and a Junior Library Guild selection.

My fiction and essays have been recognized with awards from the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, the Texas Institute of Letters and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others, and appeared in The Village Voice, The Kenyon Review, Newsday, Callaloo, The Massachusetts Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and elsewhere.


A former Fulbright Fellow to Brazil, I teach at the University of Illinois.






Matt and Free discover the dark side of the City of Light.

Matt, a white quarterback from Montreal, Quebec, flies to France (without his parents’ permission) to play football and escape family pressure. Freeman, a black defensive back from San Antonio, Texas, is in Paris on a school trip when he hears about a team playing in a rough, low-income suburb called Villeneuve-La-Grande. Matt and Free join the team, the Diables Rouges. For both boys, this is one last fling before facing the inevitabilities that await them: college, careers… life.

Their friendship blossoms as they explore the cobbled streets and age-old architecture of the City of Light. But the relationships that Free and Matt develop in Villeneuve expose them — and our readers — to a side of Paris that’s rarely seen, the Paris of projects and poverty, of class divisions and racial strife. Riots erupt in Villeneuve after some of their Muslim teammates get harassed by the police, and Matt and Free have to decide whether to get involved and face the very real risk of arrest and violence.


“Action-packed” yet “introspective” - Booklist 


The Huffington Post: “This book has fire behind the words… It also has poetry and asks questions that should be discussed openly and never swept under the rug of readers.”


Kirkus Reviews: “Authors Wright and Bouchard, who met playing football in Paris and draw on experience for detailed authenticity, pull no punches in addressing racism and social ills, effectively presenting a complicated situation with no simple solution. Timely, nuanced, and highly respectful of readers’ intelligence.”


Elisa Carbone, award-winning author of Jump: "This is an important book. With characters we immediately care about, spot on dialogue, and a fast moving, football filled plot, Away Running takes readers into the very heart of racial and cultural prejudice. Inspired by true events in Paris in 2005, the novel builds to a crescendo that will take your breath away. Wright and Bouchard have molded a story that confronts some of our most pressing social ills, and offers a thread of hope."


Away Running was chosen an “Outstanding International Book” by the U.S. section of the International Board on Books for Young People and is a Junior Library Guild selection.


I was featured on February 8, 2017 on Cynsations, New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog. Cynsations is a source for conversations, publishing information, literacy and free speech advocacy, writer resources, inspiration, bookseller-librarian-teacher appreciation, news in children's and young adult literature, and author outreach. Check it out!

Follow Away Running on Twitter @awayrunning Twitter logo





Fire on the Beach recovers a lost gem of American history. It tells the story of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, formed in 1871 to assure the safe passage of American and international shipping and to save lives and salvage cargo. A century ago, the adventures of the now-forgotten “surfmen” who, in crews of seven, bore the brunt of this dangerous but vital duty filled the pages of popular reading material, from Harper’s to the Baltimore Sun and New York Herald. Station 17, located on the desolate beaches of Pea Island, North Carolina, housed one such unit, and Richard Etheridge—the only black man to lead a lifesaving crew—was its captain.

In 1896, when the three-masted schooner E. S. Newman beached during a hurricane, Etheridge and his men accomplished one of the most daring rescues in the annals of the Life-Saving Service, one for which they would be posthumously awarded the Gold Life-Saving Medal.

Fire on the Beach depicts the lives of Etheridge and his crew against the backdrop of late-nineteenth-century America—the horrors of the Civil War, the hopefulness of Reconstruction, and the long slide toward Plessy v. Ferguson that followed. Full of exploits and heroics, Fire on the Beach, like the movie Glory, illustrates yet another example of the little-known but outstanding contributions of a remarkable group of African-Americans to our country’s history.


"Social history at its readable best" - the Memphis Flyer


A New Yorker notable selection


St. Louis Post-Dispatch "Best Books of 2001"

Fire on the Beach: Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers Logo facebook





2011 San Francisco
Ocean Film Festival:
Documentary Feature Category
2011 North Carolina
Triangle Press Club
Best Documentary Film for 2010
2010 Gig Harbor Film Festival
Audience Award Winner

Rescuemen Logo facebook


"Writing Race in America"
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2014



"The Road On" (short fiction)
Callaloo, May 2009



"So On" (short fiction)
The Massachusetts Review, spring 2005