Morning Read: Journalist With Vermont Ties Freed in Middle East
By Ken Picard
on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 11:05 AM
This weekend brought a rare bit of good news from the otherwise war- and insanity-torn Middle East: the release of American journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who was kidnapped in Antakya, Turkey in October 2012 as he was entering Syria. Curtis was held for two years by a group called Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's official Syrian wing.
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A 45-year-old Woodstock, Vt. native and Middlebury College alum who often writes under the name Theo Padnos, Curtis clearly has a hankering for venturing to places most of us fear to tread. In the mid-2000s, he pretended to convert to Islam in order to join a radical Yemeni mosque, then later wrote about his experiences in the 2011 book Undercover Muslim: A Journey into Yemen.
Earlier in his career, Curtis spent time teaching literature to thugs, rapists and murderers in the Woodstock Regional Correctional Facility. It was there he met Laird Stanard, a 17-year-old convicted murderer who'd killed his own mother. Curtis' experience later became the subject of his 2003 memoir, My Life Had Stood a Loaded Gun.
Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.