Oct 23

Books: Montana in Print

by Barbara Theroux

As the summer season brings tourists, family and friends to Montana, new books can add to everyone’s knowledge and enjoyment. Several books give more information on our state’s great history and some of the characters in Montana’s frontier.

“Stories from Montana’s Enduring Frontier: Exploring an Untamed Legacy” by John Clayton

At the turn of the 20th century, Montana started emerging from its rugged past.  Permanent towns and cities, powered by mining, tourism, and trade, replaced ramshackle outposts. Yet Montana’s frontier endured, both in remote pockets and in the wider cultural imagination. The frontier thus played a continuing role in Montanans’ lives, often in fascinating ways. Author John Clayton has written extensively on these shifts in Montana history, chronicling the breadth of the frontier’s legacy with this diverse collection of stories. Explore the remnants of Montana’s frontier through stories of the Little Bighorn Battlefield, the Beartooth Highway, and the lost mining camp of Swift Current—and through legendary characters such as Charlie Russell, Haydie Yates, and “Liver-eating” Johnston.

 

For some visitors, Montana and fishing are synonymous.  So consider these books for the fishermen in your life.

“Trout of the World” by James Prosek

First released in 2003, Trout of the World features original watercolors of trout from around the world, ranging from the Oxus trout of eastern Afghanistan to the small golden brown trout of British chalk streams. Each unique painting is coupled with a historical profile of the fish, as well as personal reflections from the author. Prosek savors the beauty of various fishing spots, along with the fate of the species, contemplating man’s role in the extinction of animals. This new edition features thirty new fish paintings and a newly written preface. Both sensitive and informative, “Trout of the World” is a must for the library of the recreational fisherman as ichthyologist.

“Why I Fly Fish: Passionate Anglers on the Pastime’s Appeal and How It’s Shaped Their Lives” by Chris Santella

Chris Santella has compiled an inspirational gift book based on 25 interviews with fly-fishing professionals and celebrity hobbyists alike. “Why I Fly Fish” encapsulates the life lessons fly-fishing aficionados have learned from their favorite pursuit. Featured contributors include Donald Trump Jr., Bill Ford (CEO of Ford Motor Company), Conway Bowman (host of several flyfishing TV programs), actor Henry Winkler, Lefty Kreh (the world’s best-known fly-fisherman) and many more. With personal photographs by the contributors themselves, “Why I Fly Fish” is an inspirational and intimate reflection on the beloved sport and pastime.

 

New fiction from favorite authors might help a rainy day seem less dreary.

“Light of the World: A Dave Robicheaux Novel” by James Lee Burke

In “Light of the World,” sadist and serial killer Asa Surrette narrowly escaped the death penalty for the string of heinous murders he committed while capital punishment was outlawed in Kansas. But following a series of damning articles written by Dave Robicheaux’s daughter Alafair about possible other crimes committed by Surette, the killer escapes from a prison transport van and heads to Montana—where an unsuspecting Dave happens to have gone to take in the sweet summer air, accompanied by Alafair, his wife Molly, faithful partner Clete, and Clete’s newfound daughter, Gretchen Horowitz, whom readers met in Burke’s most recent bestseller “Creole Belle.”

 

“The Highway” by C.J. Box

 

When teenagers Danielle and Gracie Sullivan take a clandestine car trip to visit their friend in Montana, little do they know it’s the last time anyone will ever hear from them again. The girls and their car simply vanish. Cody Hoyt, who’s just lost his job and has fallen off the wagon after a long stretch of sobriety, is in no condition to investigate. But his son Justin, who the girls were going to visit, and his former partner, Cassie Dewell, convince him to drive south to their last known location. As Cody makes his way to the remote stretch of Montana highway where the girls went missing, Cassie discovers that there have been scores of similar disappearances in the state. There’s a serial killer out there roaming the highways, and Cody and Cassie must find him before he takes more lives.

 

“A Serpent’s Tooth: A Walt Longmire Mystery” by Craig Johnson

 

It’s homecoming in Absaroka County, but the football and festivities are interrupted when a homeless boy wanders into town. A Mormon “lost boy,” Cord Lynear is searching for his missing mother but clues are scarce. Longmire and his companions, feisty deputy Victoria Moretti and longtime friend Henry Standing Bear, embark on a high plains scavenger hunt in hopes of reuniting mother and son. The trail leads them to an interstate polygamy group that’s presiding over a stockpile of weapons and harboring a vicious vendetta.

 

“Sweet Thunder: A Novel” by Ivan Doig

 

In the winter of 1920, a quirky bequest draws Morrie Morgan back to Butte, Montana, from a year-long
honeymoon with his bride, Grace. But the mansion bestowed by a former boss upon the itinerant charmer,
who debuted in Doig’s bestselling “The Whistling Season,” promises to be less windfall than money pit. And the town itself, with its polyglot army of miners struggling to extricate themselves from the stranglehold of the ruthless Anaconda Copper Mining Company, seems—like the couple’s fast-diminishing finances—on the verge of implosion. 

These twin dilemmas catapult Morrie into his new career as editorialist for the Thunder, the fledgling union
newspaper that dares to play David to Anaconda’s Goliath. Amid the clatter of typewriters, the rumble of the printing presses, and a cast of unforgettable characters, Morrie puts his gift for word-slinging to work. As he pursues victory for the miners, he discovers that he is enmeshed in a deeply personal battle as well—the struggle to win lasting love for himself.

 

Finally, a book that views the life and work of a unique man who calls Montana home, for as much of the year as he can.

“In the Shadow of the Sabertooth: A Renegade Naturalist Considers Global Warming, the First Americans and the Terrible Beasts of the Pleistocene” by Doug Peacock

Our climate is changing fast. The future is uncertain, probably fiery, and likely terrifying. Yet shifting weather patterns have threatened humans before, right here in North America, when people first colonized this continent. About 15,000 years ago, the weather began to warm, melting the huge glaciers of the Late Pleistocene. In this brand new landscape, humans managed to adapt to unfamiliar habitats and dangerous creatures in the midst of a wildly fluctuating climate. What was it like to live with huge packhunting lions, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, and gigantic short-faced bears, to hunt now extinct horses, camels, and mammoth? Are there lessons for modern people lingering along this ancient trail?

The shifting weather patterns of today-what we call “global warming”-will far exceed anything our ancestors previously faced. Doug Peacock’s latest narrative explores the full circle of climate change, from the death of the megafauna to the depletion of the ozone, in a deeply personal story that takes readers from Peacock’s participation in an archeological dig for early Clovis remains in Livingston, MT, near his home, to the death of the local whitebark pine trees in the same region, as a result of changes in the migration pattern of pine beetles with the warming seasons.

Barbara Theroux is manager of Fact and Fiction Bookstore in downtown Missoula.

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