Monday, March 30, 2015
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Reading The West & High Plains Book Awards Finalists Announced

Last week two regional organizations announced the finalists for their annual book awards. I've listed the finalists below with links to New West's reviews of the books and author interviews. First, the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association announced the finalists for its Reading the West Book Awards (that's the new name of the MPIBA's longstanding book award series). The shortlist in the Adult category:Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession by Craig Childs (Little, Brown and Co.) • The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) • Volt: Stories by Alan Heathcock (Graywolf Press) • Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America by Eric Jay Dolin (W.W. Norton) • The Ringer by Jenny Shank (The Permanent Press) Also in the Roundup: The finalists for the High Plains Book Awards, The Whitefish Review seeks donations for its ninth issue, The High Desert Journal announces a poetry prize, and the tally on how many books Oprah helped David Wroblewski and Cormac McCarthy sell. Read More »

Paperbacks for Spring Reading & Literary Conference Season Kicks Off

Helen Thorpe's Colorado Book Award-winning Just Like Us is out in paperback now, and it includes an update about the lives of her subjects, four young Mexican women who grew up in Denver, two with U.S. citizenship and two without. On May 12, Thorpe will speak at the Arvada Public Library, and on May 15 she will participate in the Dean's Forum at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver. In October, Just Like Us will be the featured book for One Book One Town in Carbondale, Colo. • Brady Udall's excellent novel The Lonely Polygamist is out in paperback now too. Udall will appear at the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, along with Cristina García, Gary Ferguson, and Stephanie Elizondo Griest from June 23-26. The conference is open for registration now. (Check back on New West in late June for David Abrams' report on the conference.) Also in the Roundup: Robin Black is this year's Lighthouse Fly-By Writer, the new Mountain West Poetry Series, lit champ Jennifer Egan to headline the Literary Sojourn in Steamboat Springs, and Women Writing the West conference tickets are on sale now. Read More »

Don’t Ask Why: Tim Sandlin’s ‘Lydia’

Jackson Hole residents share this trait with comic-book superheroes: their origin stories tend to be more interesting than their immediate circumstances. That may be why the bulk of Tim Sandlin’s new book, Lydia (Sourcebooks Landmark, 432 pages, $24.99), rests on a centenarian’s life-tale, while the arc compelling the novel rides on a Gotham City street-level villain with the determination of Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men. The title character connects these storylines in the narrator’s quest to understand human behavior. “Why do we treat those we love so much worse than those we don’t like?” the narrator, Sam, writes. “Lydia would starve before not tipping a waitress. She’d go back home if the alternative was parking in a handicapped slot, yet she lied to and browbeat the family she loved.” Tim Sandlin will visit several regional bookstores, including Valley Bookstore in Jackson (April 23, 7 p.m.), Boulder Book Store (April 25, 7:30 p.m.) Barnes & Noble stores in Fort Collins (April 26, 7 p.m.) and Colorado Springs (April 27, 7 p.m.), Denver's Tattered Cover (Colfax, April 28, 7:30 p.m.), and Cheyenne's Barnes & Noble (April 29, 7 p.m.). Read More »

Anthony Doerr Extends Winning Streak and New Mexico Will Star as Wyoming in ‘Longmire’ TV Pilot

Boise's Anthony Doerr continued his winning streak last weekend, collecting the The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award for his story "The Deep," which came with a £30,000 prize. (Last month he won the $20,000 Story Prize for his collection Memory Wall). Doerr spoke with the Boise Weekly just before the win, and noted that the award ceremony was to be held in the Great Hall of Christ Church College at Oxford University, "where they film the great hall of Hogwarts." It's like I've been telling you these past months--literary Boise is en fuego. • Craig Johnson reported in his newsletter that filming will begin this month on a television pilot based on his Walt Longmire mysteries. Johnson notes that the crew is filming in the "Las Vegas/Taos/Santa Fe area of New Mexico, since it was deemed that Wyoming's weather was too unstable for shooting a series and had too much snow to appear to be spring." The show, for Warner Horizon and A&E, will be called "Longmire." Johnson explains if the pilot gets picked up, they will film a dozen episodes for the first season, "borrowing chunks of the novels, but following their own tales because of the amount of stories they need to tell and the time constraints in which to tell them." (Via Wyoming Arts Blog.) Also in the Roundup: Chris Abani speaks in Utah, Western readers snap up eBooks, and Philip Connors visits the Boulder Book Store. Read More »

Wyoming’s Wind Farms Stir the Plot in C.J. Box’s New Novel

Cold Wind by C.J. Box Putnam, 400 pages, $25.95 Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett's long-simmering resentment against his intolerable mother-in-law, the notorious gold digger Missy Vankueren Longbrake Alden, comes to a boil in Cold Wind, the eleventh novel in C.J. Box's popular mystery series. Pickett is too much of a chivalrous, white-hat-wearing cowboy type to ever retaliate against his mother-in-law for her years of belittlement—but in Cold Wind, he is seriously tempted to. As Cold Wind opens, Missy's fifth husband turns up murdered in a spectacular fashion: shot and hanging from one of the 250-foot turbines on his wind farm. When police discover the murder weapon in Missy's car and she is arrested for the crime, Pickett is inclined to stay out of the case. Box's Joe Pickett novels often open with a description of a dead game animal, illegally poached, that Pickett must trace to a culprit and beyond that to further misdeeds. Cold Wind's introduction of a human body instead at the beginning sets the tone for the plot, which won't involve much game warden action from Pickett. Read More »

Rocky Mountain Writers Score The Story Prize, NAACP Image Award, and a PEN/Faulkner Nomination

Listen up: Western writers kicked butt last week. First, Boise's Anthony Doerr won The Story Prize for his collection Memory Wall. The Story Prize awards $20,000 annually to one writer of an outstanding collection of fiction in English published during the prior year. Next, the finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction were announced, and the shortlist includes--straight out of Laramie--Brad Watson's Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives. Then, Denver novelist Carleen Brice traveled to Los Angeles Friday for the NAACP Image Awards, where Sins of the Mother, a Lifetime original movie based on Brice's first novel Orange, Mint and Honey, was nominated for Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. Did she win? You bet your Rocky Mountain oysters she did. (Visit her fabulous blog, White Readers Meet Black Authors, why don't you?) Meanwhile, The Weird Sisters by Denver's Eleanor Brown and West of Here by Washington state novelist Jonathan Evison are hanging out together on the New York Times Best-Seller List for Hardcover Fiction. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Montana's Jaime Ford has been on the paperback fiction list for forty weeks now. See? It's all about training at altitude. Also in the Roundup: A reading to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the Fourmile Canyon fire in Boulder, and the Tuscon Festival of Books. Read More »

The Land Trust Alternative: For Wyoming’s Endangered Ranchers, It’s a Future

In north central Wyoming, seven miles east of the Big Horn National Forest, Catherine Kusel and her brother Fred, two siblings well into retirement age, still run cattle on land purchased by their father in 1920. Their land has an undisturbed beauty typical of Wyoming. It is the dry, high desert steppe of open sage and grass juxtaposed with the rising forms of the Big Horn Mountains at its edge. The Kusel Ranch is an ideal place to raise a small herd of cattle, ideal, too, for people craving the aesthetic of the open west or for the second-home buyer wanting a private getaway. That's why, since last summer, Catherine and Fred Kusel’s newest neighbor is not another rancher, but a new subdivision. Statistics presented by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association indicate that by the middle of this century, an additional 48 million people are expected to live in the West. This population boom will put 26 million acres of open space at risk of residential and commercial development. Expected to have the third-highest growth rate, Wyoming will feel much of this coming change. Read More »

Throughout the Rockies, Utility Companies Reluctantly Reconsider Coal Plants

Scores of new coal-fired power plants that were being planned across the nation six or seven years ago have mostly been shelved. Last year alone, utilities and power-generating companies dropped plans to build 38 coal plants, according to the Sierra Club, while announcing they would retire 48 aging, inefficient ones. Stepping into the void is natural gas and renewables. Utilities have also more aggressively embraced demand-side management strategies to bend down the growth curve. Read More »

Spending the Lord’s Money in Wyoming: How Foster Friess Decides Who Gets What

It was one of those Jackson Hole parties that you sometimes hear about, the kind that make Wyomingites who live outside the valley groan at the excess — or green with envy. Foster Friess and his wife, Lynn, celebrated their 70th birthdays last July with four days of dinners, receptions and activities for 200 friends. All expenses were covered by the Friesses, and the weekend culminated with a dinner party at the Four Seasons Hotel in Teton Village, where the men dressed up in tuxedo jackets, bolo ties and cowboy boots. Any bash organized by Foster Friess, one of Wyoming’s richest residents and most idiosyncratic philanthropists, has to feature a surprise, and this was one was a doozy. In the invitations to the party, Friess, a born-again Christian, had asked the guests to identify their favorite charity that reflected the values of his favorite quote from Galatians: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” He vowed to give $70,000 to the most worthy nominee. Read More »

Community Ties Trump Outlawry in “Best of the West 2010″

Best of the West 2010: New Stories from the Wide Side of the Missouri Edited by James Thomas & D. Seth Horton University of Texas Press, 246 pages, $19.95 Kent Meyers' insightful foreword, "Why All the Law?" is one of the best pieces in the 2010 edition of the recently revived annual anthology of Western short fiction, Best of the West. Meyers makes a cogent argument about what distinguishes Western American literature from any other regional literature. Meyers writes, "the outlaw has a peculiar relationship to Western American literature." Often in Western lit, the outlaw is a "royal" figure, somehow deposed from power and left to make his existence on the outskirts of society. Meyers compares this glorification of outlaws to the tendency of some Western people to try to free themselves from the reach of law, taxes, and other trappings of government, as did Warren Jeffs. "The West makes promises to fictional kings," Meyers writes, "it offers resources of space and land and solitude." Meyers' conclusion seems eerily prescient in light of the recent assassination attempt against Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona: "Literary authors find, as well as invent, their stories. In the American West, those stories often spring out of a concern with how the individual, so easily tempted toward moral solipsism, manages, or doesn't, to stay connected to the needs of others, and so keeps from becoming a law unto himself. If an examination of these forces is what Western writers tend toward, it's a gift the nation needs right now as it struggles with the conundrum of remaining true to its own laws while facing those who would not merely break the law but destroy it." Read More »