Jul 16

Summer Reading

by Barbara Theroux

Montana is a place full of stories, full of characters, full of history. This summer there are many new books that capture what natives like about the state and what tourists want to remember about it.

Several new works of fiction feature debut authors and local favorites. Two wonderful novels by first time writers include:

Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks
In the mid-1950s, America was flush with prosperity and saw an unbroken line of progress, while the West was still very much wild. Malcolm Brooks animates that time and untamed landscape, in a tale of the modern and the ancient, of love and fate, and of heritage threatened by progress. Catherine Lemay is a young archaeologist on her way to Montana, with a huge task before her. Working ahead of a major dam
project, she has one summer to prove nothing of historical value will be lost in the flood. From the moment she arrives, nothing is familiar-the vastness of the canyon itself mocks the contained, artifactrich
digs in post-Blitz London where she cut her teeth. And then there’s John H, a former mustanger and veteran of the U.S. Army’s last mounted cavalry campaign, living a fugitive life in the canyon. John H inspires Catherine to see beauty in the stark landscape, and her heart opens to more than just the vanished past. Painted Horses sends a dauntless young woman on a heroic quest, sings a love song to the horseman’s vanishing way of life, and reminds us that love and ambition, tradition and the future, often make strange bedfellows.

The Home Place by Carrie La Seur
Alma Terrebonne thought she was done with Montana, with its bleak winters and stifling ways. But an unexpected call from the local police takes the successful lawyer back to her provincial hometown and pulls her
into the family trouble she thought she’d left far behind: Her lying, party-loving sister, Vicky, is dead. Alma is told that a very drunk Vicky had wandered away from a party and died of exposure after a night in the
brutal cold. But when Alma returns home to bury Vicky and see to her orphaned niece, she discovers that the death may not have been an accident. The Home Place is a story of secrets that will not lay still, human bonds that will not break, and crippling memories that will not be silenced. It is a story of rural towns and runaways, of tensions corporate and racial, of childhood trauma and adolescent betrayal, and of the guilt that even forgiveness cannot ease. Most of all, this is a story of the place we carry in us always: home.

Two other novels to read during the lazy days of summer are:

Crime Rib by Leslie Budewitz
Food Preneurs, one of the hottest cooking shows on TV, has decided to feature Jewel Bay in an upcoming episode, and everyone in town is preparing for their close-ups, including the crew at the Glacier Mercantile, aka the Merc. Not only is gourmet food market owner Erin Murphy busy remodeling her courtyard into a relaxing dining area, she’s organizing a steak-cooking competition between three of Jewel Bay’s hottest chefs to be featured on the program.
But Erin’s plans get scorched when one of the contending cooks is found dead. With all the drama going on behind the scenes, it’s hard to figure out who didn’t have a motive to off the saucy contestant. Now, to keep the town’s reputation from crashing and burning on national television, Erin will have to grill some suspects to smoke out the killer.

Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke
It is 1934 and the Depression is bearing down when sixteen-yearold Weldon Avery Holland happens upon infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after one of their notorious armed robberies. A
confrontation with the outlaws ends as Weldon puts a bullet through the rear window of Clyde’s stolen automobile. Ten years later, Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland and his sergeant, Hershel Pine, escape certain death in the Battle of the Bulge and encounter a beautiful young woman named Rosita Lowenstein hiding in a deserted extermination camp. Eventually, Weldon and Rosita fall in love and marry and, with Hershel, return to Texas to seek their fortunes.
There, they enter the domain of jackals known as the oil business. They meet Roy Wiseheart, a former Marine aviator haunted with guilt for deserting his squadron leader over the South Pacific and Roy’s wife Clara, a vicious anti-Semite who is determined to make Weldon and Rosita’s life a nightmare. It will be the frontier justice upheld by Weldon’s grandfather, Texas lawman Hackberry Holland, and the legendary antics of Bonnie and Clyde that shape Weldon’s plans for saving his family from the evil forces that lurk in peacetime America and threaten to destroy them all.

New books to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Montana Territory include a variety of guides, pictorial essays, re-edited histories and books that remind us of the importance of the place we call home.

Montana State Parks: Complete Guide & Travel Companion by Erin Madison and Kristen Inbody
Montana’s Fifty-five state parks represent a diverse collection of natural areas, historic sites, and fun places where visitors are welcome to hike, camp, fish, swim, boat, photograph, watch wildlife, learn, and explore. Great Falls Tribune reporters Erin Madison and Kristen Inbody visited each park and interviewed park managers, historians, and visitors to provide the most complete and up-to-date information about these remarkable public lands. Special features include: lists of the best parks for camping, boating, hiking, and recreation and best parks for history and natural wonders; and a Smith River essay by Montana novelist Maile Meloy.
This is the only guidebook to all the parks, use it to find a favorite park – or take the State Park Challenge and visit them all.

Rough Trip through Yellowstone: The Epic Winter Expedition of Emerson Hough, F. Jay Haynes, and Billy Hofer Edited with an Introduction by Scott Herring
In the winter of 1894, the magazine Forest and Stream sent one of its most talented writers, Emerson Hough, to Yellowstone National Park to document the decline of the bison. The legendary guide Billy Hofer, taught Hough to ski on 12-foot-long wooden slats. Undertaking a tough, 200-mile trip on skis, Hough, Haines and Hofer came up with the best census of the park’s bison and elk that anyone had yet achieved. He
witnessed the arrest of notorious poacher Ed Howell and met pioneering photographer F. Jay Haynes. Hough wrote up the expedition in a series of 14 articles. His reporting motivated the United States Congress to pass the anti-poaching Lacey Act and helped turn public opinion against a proposed railroad through the park. Moreover, Hough’s articles are immensely entertaining and he remains one of the wittiest writers ever to describe the park.

Crown of the Continent by Steve Gnam
Far from the beaten path for many Americans, our northern Rocky Mountains feature two popular national parks, fertile ranch land, and some of the most unspoiled landscapes in North America. This so-called “Crown of the Continent” is also the largest wildlife corridor in the Lower 48 and remains undivided by highways and cities. Photographer Steven Gnam’s striking photos reveal the region in all its moods, bringing the rugged and lush landscapes, the big megafauna and small critters, the popular recreation and personal lives up close in vivid detail. His images will inspire pride in Crown residents and encourage visitors to dig deeper to create greater public awareness for this American treasure.
Complementing Gnam’s remarkable images is an essay by Douglas Chadwick, who explores the Crown’s biodiversity, from wolverines and grizzly bears to marmots and stoneflies, and explains the importance of keeping large areas of wilderness from being divided by human development. Michael Jamison describes recent conservation successes to preserve the way of life in the Crown, and Karsten Heuer’s epilogue encourages continued work to keep the region intact.

Montana: Then and Now by Aaron Parrett
When Montana Territory was established in 1864, it was a land of teepees and ramshackle cabins, of lawless vigilantes and miners scraping out meager livings. One hundred and fifty years later, the dramatic changes to the Treasure State are overshadowed only by the startling similarities. On the occasion of Montana’s 150th territorial anniversary, Aaron Parrett compares where we started with where we are today, and along the way shows us a Montana we never could have previously imagined. From the polarizing politics of the day to the frontier night life and literary scene, it seems that the only things more startling than the differences between these two periods are the similarities.

John Mullan: The Tumultuous Life of a Western Road Builder by Keith Petersen
John Mullan’s celebrated construction project, a 625-mile link that connected the Missouri and Columbia rivers, established him as an accomplished road builder. After completing the West’s first engineered highway at age thirty-two, he lived for nearly another half century, a period of dynamic change. When he died in 1909, automobiles were making their initial crossings along the route he engineered, and his road eventually
became a critical link in America’s longest interstate freeway, I-90.
Yet despite frequent mentions in books about the nineteenth century Northwest, the soldier/explorer has remained little more than a caricature: a dashing young Army officer who comes West, builds one of its most important thoroughfares, and then disappears from the region’s literature.
Idaho State Historian Keith Petersen takes a fresh look at Mullan’s road, which has significantly impacted the development of the Northwest for more than 150 years. The deeply researched biography also probes Mullan’s complex personality and continues the story, including business partnerships and personal relationships with some of the West’s most intriguing characters including: Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet, General William T. Sherman, Chico founder John Bidwell, Idaho gold discoverer Elias Pierce, and Yakama Indian chief Owhi.

Life on the Rocks: A Portrait of the American Mountain Goat by Bruce L. Smith
The American mountain goat is one of the most elusive and least familiar species of hoofed mammals in North America. Confined to the remote and rugged mountains of the western United States and Canada, these
extraordinary mountaineers are seldom seen or encountered, even by those who patiently study them. Life on the Rocks offers an intimate portrayal of this remarkable animal through the eyes and lens of field biologist and photographer Bruce Smith.
Color photographs and accounts of Smith’s personal experiences living in Montana’s Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area accompany descriptions of the American mountain goat’s natural history. Smith explores their treacherous habitat, which spans the perilous cliffs and crags of the Rocky, Cascade, and Coast mountain ranges. The physical and behavioral adaptations of these alpine athletes enable them to survive a host of dangers, including six-month-long winters, scarce food sources, thunderous avalanches, social strife, and predators like wolves, bears, lions, wolverines, and eagles. Smith also details the challenges these animals face as their territory is threatened by expanding motorized access, industrial activities, and a warming climate.

Goliath Staggered: How the People of Highway 12 Conquered Big Oil by Steve Bunk
Goliath Staggered is about the grassroots campaign to stop megaloads from crossing the federally protected Highway 12 Wild and Scenic River corridor in Idaho. The so-called “megaloads” controversy mesmerized citizens of the Northwest states before the XL Pipeline debate came to public attention.
Several of the world’s biggest oil companies were determined to ship hundreds of gigantic loads of mining equipment to the tar sands of Canada via Highway 12. Big Oil had politicians in its pocket, but grassroots opposition arose, and after three years of confrontations in meeting rooms, the media, the streets and the courts, the citizens won.
Bunk, who covered the story as it unfolded for the Missoula-based online journal New West, gives order to the sequence of events and interplay of strategies, with insights of Lin Laughy, Borg Hendrickson and other participants in the effort. Their victory became an inspiration for the current national grassroots movement against the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.
Some of the last people to speak their views were the tribal leaders of the Nez Perce Tribe. Their formal resolution opposed the megaloads and further stated: “If OmegaMorgan proceeds with defying the Forest Service, the Nez Perce Tribe will not interfere with its members’ constitutional rights to lawfully assemble in opposition to the immediate threat of the transport of these two megaloads.” Perhaps the best reason
to read Goliath Staggered is to read the words of the tribal leaders.

Next season will see new books by northwest favorites: Chuck Palahniuk, Molly Gloss, Kim Zupan, Pete Fromm and Garth Stein. Plus there will be a few more 150th celebration histories and a new book on the art of Charles M Russell from the Montana Historical Society Press.

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

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