Tony Tost is the creator, executive producer, and showrunner of Damnation, a period drama about the labor wars in America during the 1930s. “Damnation” debuted November 2017 on USA Network and on Netflix outside the US. According to Tost, “I wanted to come up with a pulpy story about America that had big, operatic backstories for the characters and big gestures and unexpected little grace notes. I was inspired by everything from the westerns of Sam Peckinpah, Clint Eastwood, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Budd Boetticher, James Mangold, Quentin Tarantino, the Coens, and Sergio Leone; to samurai films like Yojimbo and 13 Assassins and Lady Snowblood; to grimy 1970s crime films like Charley Varrick, Prime Cut, Night Moves, and Walking Tall; to crime novels by Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, James Ellroy, James Crumley. Thematically, my big inspirations are my artistic heroes Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard.”
Tost was born in Springfield, Missouri and grew up in a series of single and double-wide trailers in and around Enumclaw, Washington. His parents were the day and night custodians at his elementary school and were the president and secretary of their labor union. Before becoming a writer, Tost began working full-time at the age of fifteen, working fast food and retail jobs, in a pickle factory, cleaning hotels and condos, washing dishes, and janitorial work.
He is a graduate of both Green River Community College in Auburn, Washington and College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri. After his undergraduate education, Tost graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Arkansas. He then completed a Ph.D. in English from Duke University, writing his dissertation on the poetics of innovative modernists such as Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein.
His first poetry book Invisible Bride won the 2003 Walt Whitman Award judged by C.D. Wright. A second poetry book, Complex Sleep, was published by the University of Iowa Press in 2007. In 2011, Tost’s book on Johnny Cash’s American Recordings was published by Continuum Books in their 33 1/3 series on classic albums. Tost was a writer and producer on five seasons (out of six) of the A&E and later Netflix television series Longmire. His feature script “The Olympian” about Brad Alan Lewis’s quest for the 1984 Olympics was selected for the 2016 Black List ranking of the film industry’s best unproduced screenplays.