Advanced Television

Audible podcast investigates inspiration behind The Great Gatsby

March 28, 2024

Audible, a provider of spoken word entertainment, has unveiled a new Audible Original investigative podcast series set to unravel the enigma surrounding F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic character: The Great Gatsby.

The series, led by award-winning journalist Joe Nocera (The Shrink Next Door, Agatha Christie and the Dandelion Poisoner), follows the previously untold story of Max Gerlach, a German immigrant, small-time crook and bootlegger who moved to America in the early 1900s in pursuit of the American Dream. Fast forward to the 1950s when a Fitzgerald renaissance takes hold, Max Gerlach claims that he is the inspiration behind the infamous Jay Gatsby. 

Set against the world-shaking backdrop of World War I, Prohibition, and The Great Depression, the series follows Max Gerlach’s life and examines compelling evidence that suggests he was telling the truth, beginning with a mysterious note written by Gerlach to Fitzgerald in 1923, which sounds uncannily like it could have been written by Jay Gatsby himself. 

The podcast also confirms for the first time ties the real-life Gatsby had to criminal kingpin Arnold Rothstein. The relationship between Gatsby and the fictional gangster Meyer Wolfsheim has long been held as one of the novel’s main connections to reality. Now new documents that have come to light prove this link and reveal clues as to how the character of Gatsby earned his fabulous wealth.

The Great Gatsby is a formative part of American culture, and yet almost a hundred years after it was written there is still so much about it that remains unknown. This podcast reveals a hidden history of shifting immigrant identities, of chasing an impossible dream against all odds, on both sides of the law, and questions the very nature of what it means to live the American Dream.

Joe Nocera is again joined by producer Poppy Damon, returning to Audible following last year’s critically acclaimed Agatha Christie and the Dandelion Poisoner. Produced once again by Blanchard House, the series draws on brand new discoveries and the expertise of academics, authors and private investigators, to uncover the truth behind Gerlach’s claims and explore the true stories behind this icon of American literature. 

Joe Nocera, host of American Dreamer: Who Was Jay Gatsby? said: “I thought I knew a lot about F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby, but working on this podcast was a revelation—it’s amazing how many unexpected plot twists Poppy and I discovered, and the surprising parallels between Max Gerlach’s life and that of the fictional Jay Gatsby. It was also, as usual, a pleasure working with the team at Blanchard House.”

Through immersive, cinematic sound design and thrilling original music, listeners will be transported to the raucous parties, criminal underworld and high emotion of the decadent Prohibition era, bringing to life Gatsby’s world of bootleggers, flappers, fast cars, gangsters, extravagant parties and – of course – jazz.

All episodes of American Dreamer: Who was Jay Gatsby? are available from March 28th exclusively on Audible.

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