Evan Ratliff is an award-winning journalist and the author of The Mastermind: Drugs, Empire, Murder, Betrayal (Random House: 2019), about the 21st century’s most ambitious criminal cartel and the programming genius behind it. His writing also appears in Wired, The New Yorker, and other magazines. Evan was previously the cofounder and editor in chief of Atavist and The Atavist Magazine, which under his editorship was nominated for two Emmy Awards for News and Documentary and nine National Magazine Awards. (Atavist was acquired by Wordpress.com in 2018.) On the side, he cohosts the acclaimed Longform Podcast, and was the founding story editor of Pop-Up Magazine.
The Long Version:
Evan is a longtime freelance journalist, sometime entrepreneur, and the author of The Mastermind: Drugs, Empire, Murder, Betrayal (Random House: 2019). Over the past two decades, he has reported from around the world on transnational crime, cybercrime, science and technology, the environment, terrorism, corruption, and politics.
As a writer he is a two-time finalist for both the National Magazine Awards and the Livingston Awards, a citation recipient for the Overseas Press Club Award for Digital Reporting on International Affairs, a finalist for the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, and winner of the Clark/Payne Award for science writing. His writing has been selected for numerous anthologies, including The Best American Magazine Writing 2010, The Best of Technology Writing 2006 and 2010, The Best American Nonrequired Writing 2010, and The Best American Science Writing 2012. His 2009 Wired cover story “Vanish,” about his attempt to disappear and the public’s effort to find him, was selected by the magazine as one of the 25 best stories in its 25-year history. In 2005 he co-authored Safe: The Race to Protect Ourselves in a Newly Dangerous World (HarperCollins), about innovation and counterterrorism.
After a decade contributing feature stories to the likes of Wired, The New Yorker, and National Geographic, in 2010 he joined up with Nicholas Thompson (now editor in chief of Wired) and Jefferson Rabb (brilliant programmer and designer) to found Atavist, a software storytelling platform, and The Atavist Magazine, an award-winning digital publication of longform journalism. For eight years, Evan served as CEO of the company and editor in chief of the magazine, during which The Atavist was a nine-time finalist for the National Magazine Awards, the first digital publication ever to win for feature writing, and a two-time News and Documentary Emmy nominee, among many other accolades. More than a dozen of its stories have been optioned for major film and television projects, and some of its best were anthologized in 2016’s Love and Ruin (W.W. Norton). Atavist’s platform, meanwhile, has been used by tens of thousands of news organizations, publishers, and nonprofits around the world to tell their most important stories. Both divisions of the company continue to flourish under Automattic/Wordpress.com, which acquired Atavist in 2018.
After the acquisition, Evan departed Atavist and returned to writing and producing full time, starting with The Mastermind: Drugs, Empire, Murder, Betrayal, published in 2019 by Random House and based on his Atavist Magazine series. The book tells the incredible true story of the years-long quest to bring down a mysterious programmer-turned-murderous-kingpin named Paul Calder Le Roux, architect of the most ubiquitous yet elusive global crime syndicate of the 21st-century.
In addition to speaking on topics ranging from online privacy to digital publishing, Evan cohosts the acclaimed Longform Podcast. He was the founding story editor for Pop-Up Magazine, a blockbuster live nonfiction event that now sells out around the country. (Pop-Up is also co-produced with the National Magazine Award-winning California Sunday Magazine.)
A native of Atlanta, Evan currently lives in New York City.