Before there was an ISIS -- or at least before Americans had any awareness -- a Washington Post reporter who spent part of his childhood in Grantham wrote a book on the subject, hoping it might be relevant.
"Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS" by Joby Warrick won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction.
For the national security reporter for the Washington Post, it was his second Pulitzer Prize. The first came while he was an enterprise reporter for the News and Observer in Raleigh, for a series of investigative stories he co-authored documenting the political and environmental fallout caused by factory farming in the Southeast. He received the 1996 "Gold Medal" Pulitzer Prize for public service and nine other national and regional awards.
He also wrote another book in 2011, "The Triple Agent," based on the true story of an al-Qaeda spy who led the CIA into a deadly trap in Afghanistan in 2009, in the agency's bloodiest day in a quarter century.
On Monday, March 13, he will speak on "The Rise of ISIS" at Wayne Community College at 5:30 p.m. in Moffatt Auditorium. Part of the college's Arts and Humanities program, the event is free and open to the public.
Warrick spoke with the News-Argus recently about his upcoming visit back to the community that holds fond memories for him. His parents were the Rev. and Mrs. Eugene Warrick. His father passed away in 2015 and mother, Barbara, now lives in Pennsylvania. His grandparents were Dr. and Mrs. Luby Warrick, also from the Grantham community.
"Dad ended up going to seminary when I was about 2, so we lived in Grantham until then," he said.
Being a pastor kept the family moving around a lot, from the mountains to the coast, he said. Until around age 13, they lived in North Carolina.
"But Grantham was where we would come and spend our summer vacations," he said. "We would stay there with my grandmother, come down and see our relatives. It was kind of as much a home as any single place anywhere, even though we didn't live there much."
He had no journalists in his immediate family, but there was a family friend who inspired him, he said. Gene Roberts, a Pikeville native who got his start at the News-Argus in the 1950s and went to become one of the country's preeminent journalists, secured his own collection of Pulitzer Prizes while at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"I wanted to be a doctor initially because my grandfather was one and was kind of a hero of mine," Warrick said. "But I really struggled with math."
He ended up being on his high school newspaper, discovering a penchant for writing and the investigative element.
"The more I was immersed in it, it just clicked for me," he said. "I felt this was really who I was and I had these ambitions of being a foreign correspondent.
"I remember being 16, 18 years old and listening to the radio and hearing broadcasts from this guy in Saigon or London and thinking, wow, what a great way to see the world and kind of witness history firsthand."
His first book came out of his own reporting on national security, specifically intelligence and the Middle East. Having covered the tragedy in Afghanistan in 2009, he became fascinated with the characters and the details and felt it would make a compelling book.
That led to another ambition -- writing about the Syrian conflict around 2012 and 2013.
Much was going on behind the scenes, prompting Warrick to pursue the story.
"Syria had become this vaccum where all kinds of terrible things were happening and the most terrible thing that I could see was the resurrection of this group that I knew very well because I'd written about them a lot in this decade," he said. "But they had this long history and a very brutal terrible pedigree that I knew very well from my previous coverage.
"So, seeing them come back and sensing that this was going to be a permanent, at least for the foreseeable future, problem for Syria and the Middle East, I felt that this was a topic worth exploring."
He pitched the idea to his publisher, who was a bit reluctant, Warrick says now.
"Nobody had ever heard of ISIS before. They weren't even calling themselves ISIS yet," he said. "But I guess out of luck, hopefully a little bit of foresight, you could see where this was going."
He believed it was an important story, one worth telling.
But there was also some underlying trepidation, he admitted.
What if the subject matter was obselete by the time the book came out?
"Things change so quickly in that part of the world," he said. "I just was so afraid the book would be irrelevant. I never imagined that it would do as well as it did."
The story of ISIS and its origins, in light of how it has unfolded and captured headlines in the years since, have made Warrick not only a Pulitzer Prize winner a second time, but a much sought after speaker. The job of reporter and now author has also allowed him the opportunity to fulfill that early dream of traveling the world.
His program at WCC will provide an update on the ISIS story as well as where we are in the struggle and what's likely to happen in the future, he said. There will also be a question and answer segment at the end, he said.
In the midst of a demanding and successful career, Warrick has not forgotten his local ties.
"A lot of the things that shaped who I am as a journalist really do come out of my childhood and my roots in North Carolina," he said.
Some of his love of language and the "color and beauty in Southern colloquial style" were instilled in him early on. As a minister's kid, he said, he spent a lot of time listening to the cadence of the spoken word, teaching him much about how to say something effectively.
In today's climate, with media coming under fire all the way up to the presidential level, Warrick says he considers being a journalist his calling.
"There's a moral purpose behind the best journalism, which is to sort of expose injustice and to hold powerful people to account," he said. "That's a Baptist value as much as it's a journalistic value. I think being steeped in that as a kid, that still carries with me.
"I get very passionate sometimes about the work we do."