I Missed this Novel and it’s already in PB…

Celine.

The a heroine is a 67 year- old New Yorker of upper- class background with emphysema and a drinking problem, controlled but not gone. She is a private detective. Her “Watson” is her husband, an ex-communist lobsterman named Pete.

She faces down a biker gang in a Red Lodge MT bar with the simple Samurai statement “I’m already dead.” Of course her hand is on a Glock 26 in her pocket and at least one of them is dead too but they don’t KNOW.

There is enough natural tragedy in the background, like there is in the lives of most seventyish people with heart and imagination I know, that there is nothing cheaply clever about it.

One reviewer compared her (the heroine, not the author) to a “wise Annie Proulx”. Not QUITE, but I know what she meant- and both are complimented…

Good New England, New York, and Yellowstone; good guns & their use; and the best writing about high- society Northeasterners, I swear, since James and Edith Wharton. I’m in love…

Wall Street Journal!

The fine writer Jonathan Rosen (The Life of the Skies) did me the great favor of reviewing Hounds of Heaven for the WSJ Review Supplement’s Christmas Books issue. What is more, he showed that he understood the theme of all of my work. If you don’t subscribe, the review is behind a paywall, but here is a version cut from my sister Karen’s Facebook page.

Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Rosen picked my brothers book as a Christmas gift!
— “Years ago I stumbled on a book by Stephen Bodio called “A Rage for Falcons: An Alliance Between Man and Bird.” Like the kestrel on the first page that “turned on his back in terror and ‘footed’ me with a handful of hot needles,” the author sent an electric charge through every sentence. In “The Hounds of Heaven” (Skyhorse, 180 pages, $22.99) he combines his love of falconry with his passion for the Asian sight hound, an ancient breed from Central Asia, where men have hunted with falcons and dogs for thousands of years. A writer who gives ideas as well as dogs their warm-blooded due, Mr. Bodio explores one of his great themes: the way we evolved alongside animal companions, a savage symbiosis that helped make us human.”
– Wall Street Journal Nov 19

He also reviewed my friend Julie Zickefoose’s wonderful book on nestling birds,Baby Birds and showed that he understood it too. Put that on your Christmas list as well.

Art Show and Catalogue

“Our” art show opened in Memphis this week and by all accounts is a total success. How could it not be with walls like these?

And especially paintings like this:

!Here is the book, with my contribution. Buy it, you won’t regret it!

Thanks especially to the perfect editor and curator, Kevin Sharp; to Toby Jurovics for suggesting it to me; and for Jim Moore for providing context and more…

Quote: a Preview of Cat’s New Book

“I have been in many countries and there is not a Kangal anywhere. That is why the world will be at war soon. If everyone had my father’s dogs, things would already be settled. In my home . . . the wolves will come for something that is not theirs. The Kangal finishes it all and sends them away. We are herders, and we like it. The Kangal keeps us safe in our land. We cut off his ears when he is little, so the wolf cannot bite. The wolf is always killed by the time we get to the dogs. My sister, she has two sons now. The wolves came for her and were destroyed . . . now she has two sons… Sir, the Kangal is good for the world. Not just families. They are the color of sand and rock, they have the heart of those before them, the wild animals that have become our friends. It is that way with our dogs. Every- one should have a Kangal.”

An old Turkish herder in Cat Urbigkit’s Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs

Brad’s Miss Jane

Brad Watson’s new novel makes the NYTBR— above the fold, with a photo one that one friend teased “has that Sam Shepard vibe”. Congratulations!

I like all of Brad’s work, but this one is rich- ma ybe his best? I will give it proper review when I finish

UPDATE: Here is an even better review in the Denver Post, c/o Reid.

Maybe some of his skill or at least luck will rub off on the standing desk he brought to the blog party for me.. The computer swivels two ways for Libby and me (notice  I am so eager to test it that I am still wearing my hat- I am generally not so “cow” as to wear my hat when writing)…

Visiting the American Museum

For a certain group of American naturalists, probably mostly for boys growing up in the fifties, the AMNH in New York City, referred to familiarly as “The American Museum”,  was the greatest influence, almost a mentor in itself .  (Though one must be wary of such sweeping statements. Will Beebe probably did more for women in the biological sciences than anyone in his time, simply by including them in his expeditions, and Father Anderson Bakewell always muttered that Betsy Cowles Partridge was a better climber than the misogynistic Bill Tilman, and that Tilman jinxed their expedition by referring to her as “a woman to cook for us”, allowing Hillary and Tensing to summit by their route on the next year).  Later such women as Sylvia Earle would be prominent in those circles in their own right.

Will Beebe with Jocelyn Crane; below, with Bathysphere

 But in the fifties, my world was formed by the AMNH, its writers, books, and dioramas, Akeley’s Hall of African mammals:

 The North American dioramas, so well documented in Windows on Nature
.

The striding Colonial figure of Roosevelt with his Indian and Zulu companions:

The dinosaurs, the birds: the great blue whale:

And above all, by the BOOKS, great ones by Beebe, exciting ones by Andrews and Raymond Ditmars, informative but infuriating ones by Hornaday (he wanted conservation but one of his means of achieving it was to deport all the Italians!); exotic ones by Kermit Roosevelt, Suydam Cutting and Arthur Vernay.

Hornaday and endangered buffalo

RCA with pet vulture in Mongolia

RCA with Model 99!
Keermit roosevelt

Suydam Cutting and Arthur Vernay with Lama

I ate it all, indiscriminately, as I did that of a generation nearer my own; Peter Mattthiessen, and the playboy turned edgy artist and conservationist Peter Beard were obviously cut from the same cloth. It says something about my naivete that I never even thought of the fact that, as Betsy Huntington put it with mild exasperation, “All those people were richer than GOD”.  I thought everybody had adventures and wrote about them, so I found ways, and did. Later I was inducted as a fellow into the Explorers Club, a sort of unofficial annex across the street. Bakewell was recruited as a member of the crew of the first circumpolar flight in the bar of the EC! Before the war, adventurers seemed to belong to the Social Register, the AMNH, and the Club. Kirk recently sent me some xeroxed pages about Carter Burden’s Komodo Dragon expedition in the 20’s (I have the book- isn’t he the grandfather of the editor of Vanity Fair?), from a book called All About Scientific Expeditions, and seeing that it also had Beebe  et al, I asked if it should better be called “All About Scientific Expeditions by New York socialites”? During the war, other organizations recruited there too. It was not for nothing that the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA, was known as “Oh So Social.”  Jameson Parker reminded me that even left- wing Peter Matthiessen had his CIA days…

It was really a meritocracy, though, and you didn’t have to be rich, a New Yorker, or even an American to belong. My old teacher Francois Vieullumier, a Belgian, is now an ornithologist emeritus at the AMNH, and I have a book that shows two prominent European ornithologist as associates (I found  it — can’t remember buying it ever– IN MY LIBRARY… don’t ask!)

It didn’t matter that I was a young teen- aged kid from Massachusetts when I first saw it (I had already been reading the books), or that my friend Kirk Hogan was from Wisconsin; we found the books, and ways to get there, all manner of “Theres”. Last week Kirk, who among other things is a geneticist, an anesthesiologist, a lawyer, an elk hunter, a  woodcocker, a gourmand, and a  fly fisherman, took some French friends there on a pilgrimage.  Here are some of the things he saw.

Hmm- images seem full. Continued in next post!

Pre-review

I read Larry Millman’s At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic, a few months ago, and was so impressed I immediately gave him him  a blurb. I didn’t give it any more thought until checked today to see when it was coming out, and he told me they were using my quote in its promotion. I checked it out on Amazon, thought about it, and decided to use the quote to convince everyone to pre-buy it .

Larry has been lots of places, including to Pacific islands, but is best known for his arctic writing (Bruce Chatwin called him “Eskimo”.) This book may be his best. The quote?

“Larry Millman’s At the End of the World is many things: a
loving description of Inuit life; an account of the end of the world
that has already happened; and a jeremiad against the computer, all
told in a voice that is a cross between the dark aphorisms of E M
Cioran and the timeless portraits in Chatwin’s The Songlines. In it
you will learn that Thoreau is the only person in the afterlife
without a computer, and see a carving of Donald Duck, with the
detailed body of an Eider. Read it and weep for the Old Ways that we
have lost.”

Helen on tour in Santa Fe

.. as promised.

My camera refused to charge, so all photos are Reid’s or Helen’s. The more “formal” ones are Reid’s, at the signing; the others, in the motel room,  Helen’s. I am changing meds and screwed up my doses, so had to leave the dinner; the whole crew just came to my room at the Silver Saddle and hung out– the place looked like a college dorm room, with guns…

With Paul D

  

Back to the room… Paul S examines Parker, Steve and Oriana with .410…

 

Trotsky and a Goshawk…

A Mongolian Progression….

Most books by Roy Chapman Andrews are interesting, but inexpensive. In his day he was a popular writer, and even early titles like Whale Hunting with Gun and Camera (!) and Camps and Trails in China are not too hard to find.

Not so The New Conquest of Central Asia. As it is the record of ten years of American Museum of Natural History expeditions, a huge book with many contributors, its usual price tag of around $650 is easy to understand, but hard to pay!

So when I found a not too battered ex- lib with a library binding and only three of its more than 200 plates missing, for $200, I grabbed it, I have never been happier with a book! Despite the rough condition a (tape on maps, stamps,  and library binding), it is a battered, still- magnificent treasure trove of everything Mongolian,  scientific and, yes, Colonial, in  early Twentieth Century Asian history.

Our house name for it is The Big Book of Mongolia, and we keep it on the coffee table rather than the library, where we can dig into it randomly when we have a minute to spare, finding everything from buildings I have been in (Gandan Monastery) to landscapes we, like they, drove through,  despite the absence  of roads. One of our friends in Ulan bataar, Nyamdorj, always drovenhis Mercedes limo across the steppes, stopping for us to get out and push the car through what would be considered blue–ribbon trout streams in Montana. I must ask Jonathan Hanson if the first AMNH expedition is the first one that used cars extensively — they even had camels plants stashes of gas ahead of them! And, of course, I’ve touched the  fossils in the actual dinosaur’s nest in Ulaan Bataar’s museum, some of the first ones ever found.

The book’s typical condition:

Driving in he twenties; Wolf, Chapman’s dog, riding high
The frontispiece is one of the few remaining color plates,  but there were only 5, while there were hundreds of black and white illos . And I have always liked this map showing the relative sizes of the US and Mongolia, and even used a version in Eagle Dreams, but this one looked like it was situated too far South.
I was right.Here is the correct one, from Andrews’ On the Trail of Ancient Man:
 The title of the last book gives a hint of irony too.The expeditions found MANY fossils, including important mammals (Chapman was to write some of his best accounts of finding them in his children’s book, All About Strange Beasts of the Past, in 1956 — it was the first of his books that I read. He also found the most important dinosaur fossils of all time, in beds that are still giving up fascinating fossils; without them, we might not have found the affinities of dinosaurs to birds as fast as we have. But they were looking for human fossils, all the time, and they never found any! They were certain humans had originated in Asia.
Until I read The New Conquest, I never realized that they had a great human paleontologist on board: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, the aristocratic, Jesuit paleontologist who indeed found one of the most important and iconic hominin fossils, the so-called Peking Man, on Dragon Bone hill near Beijing. It is now considered one of the first and most important fossils of Homo erectus. Or at least the castings made from it are. 
Pere Teilhard was an enigmatic man. His theology is abstruse and incomprehensible to me, though Father Bakewell respected it. My favorite of his books is Letters From a Traveler, accounts of his various diggings and wanderings. His life was novelistic, and two good novels have been written about him and the fate of  Peking Man. What is known is that the fossils were put on an America controlled train to be shipped out of the way of the invading Japanese, and they have never been seen again. The first, by Stephen Becker, is called The Blue-eyed Shan. It is a part of his Chinese trilogy, one of the oddest concepts for good books I’ve ever seen. In each, a newly decommissioned Marine who was, like Becker, born in China, engages in a series of adventures. In the first, The Chinese Bandit, adventure is the point. The book can be summed up as marine goes to China, marine is attacked by Chinese bandits, marine becomes The Chinese bandit. The second, The Last Mandarin, is a comedy, but a dark one; a caper book. The third, and I think the most profound, The Blue Eyed Shan,  is a tragedy; the bones end up in possession of a wild mountain tribe in Burma after they kill the protagonists. All three would make good movies, albeit with different directors.
The other novel is probably more realistic. Nicole Mones, author of Lost in Translation, is a Sinophile and scholar who lives in China; another of her good novels is about Chinese  food and cooking. She knows a lot about de Hardin’s life in Beijing and his interesting relationships with intellectual women. 
All these books are worth reading. And you might be interested to know that Becker, a New Englander who used a wheelchair and lived on a sailboat (he was a friend of Bad Bob Jones) also wrote a very good novel about law and justice in early 20th century southern New Mexico called A Covenant with Death.

C J’s latest project

C J Hadley came over as a young girl from Birmingham in England, and worked at Car and Driver magazine in its legendary years, when the late David E Davis ran a strong stable of writers and illustrators. It may be advancing age, but I think magazines were more colorful then, perhaps because they were a more important part of the market. These were also the days of the Pat Ryan Sports Illustrated, training ground for many of the writers that helped form me, howing me how broad a subject a sporting essay could be.

CJ met Tom Quinn there, when Tom did this legendary cover:

Both went on to other things, Quinn to become a wildlife painter, perhaps our best; CJ, however improbably, ended up in Nevada runing the outspoken rancher’s voice, Range magazine, where the English girl has been nominated for Cowgirl Hall of Fame by Jameson Parker, Joan Chevalier, and John L Moore, two of whom make frequent appearances here.

I have one original Quinn, a watercolor sketch of  a roadkill Bee eater that I snatched out of the fire kindling in his studio (really), any amount of prints, and have been privileged to write the text to a collection of his work, The Art of Thomas Quinn.

Tom’s firestarter:

Quinn and me, with his wife Jeri’s oil of a horse in the background (plus wolves by his old friend Vadim Gorbatov, painted by Vadim before he visited NM for a Korean edition of Seton’s Lobo, the story of a cattle- killing New Mexico wolf, with our aid for background material.

CJ, as Tom says, is not always controversial. She has just released what I believe is her second, broadest in scope, most ambitious  and best collection of western art and poetry (in this and other images forgive some rather odd croppings; I photo’d it on my coffee table!)

You say you don’t like cowboy poetry and art? Well, there are plenty of those represented: Buckeye Blake, Waddie Mitchell, Wallace McRae, as well as traditional western writers like Will James. But so is the far less traditional cowboy Paul Zarzyski (he is a Democrat!); Ted Kooser; Linda Hasselstrom, and many many more. In artists Tom is well represented, but also the old master Maynard Dixon,  Charlie Russell, and any number of writers and artists who may be new to you. Here is a broad if non- random selection:. A always, right or double click and you can blow it up big enough to read easily.

Good job, CJ! It is $43, available at 1 800 RANGE-4-U.

Here is CJ with Montana novelist and friend of Q John L Moore.

UPDATE : here is a pic she just sent of her  with her dogs Belle Star, Strider, and Cache Drogan.