Mimi Swartz

Award-winning Investigative Journalist, Texas Monthly Executive Editor & Heart Disease Expert

Mimi Swartz is an award winning investigative journalist, longtime executive editor at Texas Monthly, and a two-time National Magazine Award winner and a four-time finalist. She is the author of two books, Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron (with Sherron Watkins), and, most recently, Ticker, the Quest to Build an Artificial Heart. Swartz’s work has also been included in several anthologies, including, most recently, a textbook of women writers called Stories We Tell, Classic True Tales by America’s Greatest Women Journalists. She is also a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, where her pieces on everything from (crazy) Texas politics to heart disease (“Our Coronary Complacency”) have earned her a wide national following. She is an ideal keynote speaker to women’s groups, medical groups, and just about anyone who would like to hear about the travails of growing up in Texas. She has appeared on a number of national news broadcasts including the Today Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show and multiple NPR programs. Swartz is a sought-after speaker and has been featured at the Baylor College of Medicine Ethics group, Texas Book Festival, San Antonio Book Festival, Decatur Book Festival, and journalism organizations across the country. Swartz’s deep, investigative reporting for Ticker has made her an expert keynote speaker on the state of heart health in America today, especially with regard to women and heart disease, how our coronary complacency is killing us, and of course the artificial heart.

Ticker is a story that combines her many talents. It is, on one level, the story of medicine’s holy grail, chronicling the 50-year pursuit of heart surgeons and engineers to build a mechanical heart that works as well as a human one. But in the hands of a writer as skilled as Swartz, the book is much more: a gripping tale of obsession, a lively history of heart surgery, and an empathic look at the patients who gave their lives so that others might live. It is an American story of innovation, warts and all, a clear-eyed view of the difficulties involved in creating a life-changing product, from the private depths of the imagination to the very harsh realities of the marketplace. Above all, Ticker is a story of human success and human frailty, as Swartz introduces readers to some of the most famous pioneers of heart surgery: Dr. Michael DeBakey, Dr. Denton Cooley, inventor Robert Jarvik. They began their exploration of the heart before the days of government regulation, and learned—and sometimes didn’t learn—how to cope with all sorts of new rules governing their profession. As The New Yorker’s investigative reporter Jane Mayer wrote: “Ticker is like a medical version of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.”

Both of Swartz’ books also have Texas as a subject, the sprawling, irascible state that has been her home for most of her life. As a writer and editor for the award-winning Texas Monthly magazine, she has had the opportunity to explore her relationship with a place of enormous complexity, resulting in two national magazine awards and two more nominations (the Pulitzer Prize of the magazine industry). When Swartz writes and speaks about Texas, it is with authority and affection that doesn’t always come easily, but is always compelling. Whether she is writing a personal essay about leaving Houston in the wake of the oil bust, or investigating the brutality of tort reform, or tracing the hilarious history of the breast implant, Swartz has few peers when it comes to explaining and, in her case, making peace with a place that doesn’t always want peaceful coexistence.

But Mimi Swartz is more than a regional writer. Her work has appeared in most major publications over the years, including Esquire, Vanity Fair, Slate, The New York Times magazine, National Geographic, Vogue, and, as a staff writer for The New Yorker, profiled everyone from a high-dollar Prada saleswoman to Imelda Marcos. She has long chronicled women and their struggles—with motherhood, with the work place, with marriage, and more dangerous situations. She broke the first story about human trafficking in Texas, for instance.

Swartz currently serves on the boards of InPrint, the Houston Cinema Arts Society, the Texas Institute of Letters, Undies for Everyone, and the Molly National Journalism prize, given each year by the Texas Observer.

Mimi Swartz and her husband John Wilburn have a son, Sam, who doesn’t come home often enough.

Praise for Ticker

“It doesn’t take an acute interest in the human heart to be hooked after only a few pages of Ticker. And how’s this for a reason to read it: heart disease, Swartz notes early on, is responsible for the largest number of deaths in the U.S. and worldwide.”

—Vanity Fair

“Doctors and researchers have long recognized the need for an artificial organ, or . . . a machine of some kind that can assist a diseased heart until a transplant candidate can be found. The Holy Grail is a device that would make transplants altogether unnecessary. The search for that grail has been, as Mimi Swartz shows in her fascinating book, as complicated as the essential organ itself. Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart tells a story as big as Texas. . .”

—The Wall Street Journal

“A developing story about. . . innovation, daring, perceived double-crosses, competition and conflict. . . Ticker beats at an accelerated rate. . . Writer Jane Mayer compared it to The Right Stuff, with which it shares some commonalities: the tension of daredevilry in the name of research and development, and multiple characters who are brilliant, eccentric and driven.”

—Houston Chronicle

“In bringing to life more than 70 years of medical history, Swartz often achieves a novelist’s level of telling detail, the kind that can only result from determined, painstaking reporting…. Ticker makes achieving a truly viable version [of an artificial heart] . . . seem not just possible, but inevitable.”

—The Texas Observer

“A riveting medical thriller…Told in an appropriately over-the-top style, this is a quintessentially Texas story: sprawling, unpredictable, and teeming with risk and opportunity.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Even casually interested readers will become fascinated by Swartz’s vivid depiction of Frazier at work in the operating room…Swartz is a witty, savvy, seasoned journalist, and she offers a welcome history of significant medical advances.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Smart, compelling, and completely engaging, Ticker is a story about science, personality, innovation, and obsession, all in pursuit of a staggering accomplishment, the creation of an artificial heart. Mimi Swartz drives the narrative with great style and deep reporting; it’s a book anyone with a heart will love.”

—Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend and The Orchid Thief

“A remarkable journey through the harrowing world of heart surgery, as a brilliantly gifted and eccentric team of doctors work to develop a complete artificial heart, to save the thousands of patients a year whose hearts are failing.”

—Bryan Burrough, author of Public EnemiesThe Big Rich and Barbarians at the Gate

Ticker is like a medical version of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Swartz takes you into the operating theater with some of the most brilliant, ingenious and driven heart specialists in the world. It’s a book full of memorable characters grappling with life-threatening crises, which is both illuminating about modern medicine, and also just a wonderful read.”

—Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money

Ticker is a page-turner, a mind-expander, a heart-pounder. Swartz unveils a wild story of medical innovation with the keen eye of a storyteller.”

—David Eagleman, Stanford University neuroscientist and internationally bestselling author of The Brain and Incognito

“A fast paced, utterly riveting tale of the decades of effort that have gone into developing an artificial heart. The characters, many of whom dedicated their lives to this quest, are captivating, and their rivalries are the stuff of legend.”

—Bethany McLean, co-author of All the Devils Are Here and

The Smartest Guys in the Room

“A thrilling and affecting account of a modern medical miracle. Ticker is not only an inspiring tale of persistence, imagination, and sacrifice, it’s also a joy to read.”

—Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Looming Tower and

God Save Texas

“Who knew that the story of the artificial heart was such a rip-roaring one, with one larger-than-life character after another, and plot twists galore? In Ticker, Mimi Swartz has told that story with verve and elegance, and brought those characters to vivid life. A wonderful work of nonfiction by a wonderful nonfiction writer.”

—Joe Nocera, Bloomberg News columnist and author of

Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA

“An exciting, propulsive, and at times surprisingly tender account of the swashbuckling surgeons and inventive geniuses who achieved one of the greatest medical breakthroughs—the development of the artificial heart. Mimi Swartz has done an outstanding job, and uncovered the human story behind the triumph of technology.”

—Jennet Conant, New York Times bestselling author of Tuxedo Park and

109 East Palace