A native of Benton County, Minnesota, T. J. Stiles studied history at Carleton College and Columbia University. Stiles is the author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War. He has written for the New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic online, Smithsonian, Salon.com, the Los Angeles Times, among other publications, and taught nonfiction creative writing at Columbia University. In 2010 his book about Cornelius Vanderbuilt won the Pulitzer Prize for biographies. He now lives in the Presidio of San Francisco with his wife and son.