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Books & Writers

New West Daily Roundup for Jan. 19, 2016

Coors Field, Populous

Today in New West news: Populous gears up for Denver area expansion, Certain Women selected for Sundance Film Festival, and Missoula mulls purchase of composting company.

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New from August Publications: One More Ride

One More Ride

On one level, One More Ride is a collection of stories and remembrances of a life spent on unique motorcycle journeys on the highways and byways of America. But One More Ride from Fred Milverstedt is more than a litany of motorcycle rides: it’s a remembrance of a noteworthy life, with various adventures and misadventures laid out in a fascinating ...

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Sex, Sunsets, and Sandlin

As his latest novel, Lydia, was being shipped to bookstores this spring, Tim Sandlin sent a mysterious crate to the sales staff at Sourcebooks in Illinois. “It contained liquor bottles—many bottles—of Koltiska,” a spirit made in Sheridan, said Todd Stocke, Sandlin’s editor and vice president of Sourcebooks. “Tim wrote in a note: One of my writer friends said that if you want the sales department to get worked up about a book, you have to bribe them with liquor.”

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An Interview with Novelist Manuel Muñoz

Writer Manuel Muñoz grew up in Dinuba, California. Beginning in fourth grade he worked alongside his family in the fields, harvesting grapes. He was a good student, and according to his website, he applied to Harvard "for no other reason than I knew the name." After he graduated from Harvard, he earned an MFA in creative writing from Cornell and worked in the publishing industry in New York. He wrote and published two acclaimed story collections, 2003's Zigzagger and 2007's The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue. Since 2008, Muñoz has taught in the creative writing program at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Muñoz's honors include a Whiting Writers' Award, a NEA Fellowship, and an O. Henry Award. Muñoz's dazzling new novel What You See In The Dark reimagines the filming of Psycho in the sleepy town of Bakersfield, California. Muñoz sets the filming of that classic movie against the moving fictional story of the murder of Teresa, a young Mexican-American woman, by her white lover. I recently interviewed Muñoz via email about the inspiration for What You See In The Dark, his love of books that "honor the sentence," how a small town that seems to have nothing "actually has everything," and Tucson's literary scene. New West: What first inspired What You See in the Dark? Manuel Muñoz: I had many inspirations for this novel, but one I haven’t spoken about much is a dream I had. I’m not a believer in dreams as anything metaphysically significant; it’s just the brain’s way of clearing out the day’s debris. But one night, I had a dream of walking into an empty room and a woman was sitting on a bed, smoothing out the beautiful baby-blue cowboy skirt she was wearing. When I woke, I tried to recall where I might have seen that image—a TV commercial or a flash of something while flipping channels—but I came up empty. But the image stuck, so I wrote it down. It soon became a simple question. Who is she?

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Trahant: Summer Reading Includes Critical Indian Histories As Well As Smart Indian Voices

Echo-Hawk’s book ought to retire the entire debate about judicial activism. It has become a conservative article of faith that judges should narrowly follow the law when deciding cases. But Echo-Hawk methodically picks apart that fiction. He shows that even sainted justices, such as John Marshall, invented a legal theory from dust about the doctrine of discovery in Johnson v. M’Intosh. “Marshall claimed that the nation had no choice in how it dealt with the tribes and that the normal rules of international law did not apply,” Echo-Hawk wrote ... “Thus, the normal rules governing the relations between the conqueror and conquered were simply ‘incapable of application’ in the United States. It was the Indians own fault.” Marshall had a financial stake in the case that would not be permitted under today’s standards. And, Echo-Hawk points out, this was the same justice who at the end of his career became famous for Worcester v. Georgia, where he supported the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation against the state.

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Review: A Chukar Hunter’s Companion

There are few books written about hunting chukar, and even fewer that are really well-written by someone who has dedicated a significant portion of his life to chasing and learning about them. Maybe this is a result of the fact that the group of people who really go off the deep end of chukar obsession is pretty small to begin with. Maybe it’s because many dedicated chukar hunters, much like those who really get into chasing carp with a fly rod or mountain goats with a bow, tend to be a bit different; a hermetic lot, who feel their experience has been hard won (and rightly so) and are content to let others figure it out on their own, as they did.

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Dispatch From Jackson Hole: Literary Lollapalooza

I crest Teton Pass and head for the valley floor, my Hyundai gathering speed as I head for what I hope will be a life-changing event. In the distance, the southern edge of Jackson, Wyoming, seeps from behind a butte. This is my hometown and I haven’t been back in 17 years. In the coming days, I will drive slowly past my childhood home like a tourist gawking at Graceland, I will hug an old family friend—a taxidermist’s widow whose log cabin is filled with undusted mounts and Bible verses laser-etched on plaques, I will link up with a high school classmate who was once a self-confessed stoner but now embraces New Age tranquility, and I will reacquaint my tongue with the legendary cheese crisp at Merry Piglets Mexican Restaurant. But that’s not why I’m descending on Jackson Hole. I’m here for the annual writers conference and I’ve got an empty notebook, a full ink pen, and four days to absorb as much publishing advice as my spongy brain can hold. I push the gas pedal to the floor and the pine trees blur past the window. I’m so excited about the conference, I nearly send my car plunging over the side of Teton Pass.

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The Landscape of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference: Who Cares About the Mountains?

In a few days, I will be sitting in the shadow of the Grand Tetons, collecting nuts and bolts in an imaginary pail labeled “Writing Advice,” basking in the glow of literati humming like engines all around me, and generally getting my ass handed to me during a one-on-one manuscript critique session. I am both excited and scared spitless at what awaits me during the 2011 Jackson Hole Writers Conference. Technically speaking, I won’t be in the literal shadow of the Grand Tetons since the conference will be held in the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts 15 miles away in Jackson, but it sounded way cooler to start the sentence like that—implying conferees would be sitting cross-legged in a half-circle surrounded by a blaze of purple and red wildflowers while Brady Udall tossed handfuls of nuts and bolts at us—behind his head, the purple mountain majesty of the Grand thrusting its granite bosom toward the clouds. Most likely we’ll be sitting on chairs in windowless rooms, our pale ivory-tower faces illumined by fluorescence, rather than in a plein air field with hawk-screams and river currents pulling our attention from Mr. Udall’s stories of how he went about researching Mormonism for his latest novel "The Lonely Polygamist."

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Chasing the Colorado River

Growing up on a cattle ranch in the Elk Mountains of Colorado, I spent many hours operating a haybine. Essentially an oversized lawnmower on steroids, a haybine perches the driver high above tines furiously whisking up stalks of grasses like timothy and brome, leaves of clover, and vast plumes of grass pollen. The sound of machinery belts whirl and groan, and typically a hot August sun beams across your trail of dust. It is the ideal place to focus on water. From this elevated, noisy seat, your senses become immersed in hay. The smell of cut grasses chokes you. The subtle changes in the whine of the machine relate directly to the thickness and type of grass you are cutting. And the view, roughly 10 feet above the meadow, is a perfect vantage to see where water seeped into the high-mountain roots and where it didn’t. Dry spots stand out like brown beacons in a maze of green life. Our somewhat antiquated hay-cutting machine boasts a sixteen-foot cutting bar, twirling wire fingers, and large rollers that break the grass stalks to “condition” or dry the hay faster. It is a dangerous machine that you respect. When I lost the tip of my thumb to it as a teenager when the engine wasn’t even running, it earned mine. But more importantly, despite its clatter and clunkiness, the haybine provides a wondrous tool to witness the laborious hours of a summer’s irrigation. I can see exactly where I (or maybe my brother) missed an irrigation set, or where our gravity-fed sprinkler over-soaked a spot, nurturing less desirable wiregrass to shoot stalks skyward.

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Wyoming Insect Expert Turns Author

At the height of his scientific career, Jeffrey Lockwood walked away to teach in the humanities and write. “The flame had gone out, in terms of science,” said the entomologist. “I really felt like I was turning a crank.” For 15 years, Lockwood was a star in the University of Wyoming’s Department of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences (renamed in the mid-1990s the Department of Renewable Resources). He conducted groundbreaking research on grasshoppers, insecticides and biological controls. He developed 10 courses, raised over $1.3 million in grants, and received tenure at 33. He solved a 100-year-old science mystery: why the Rocky Mountain locust, which plagued American settlers in the 1800s, disappeared in the early 1900s. “He really established himself in the field,” said Scott Schell, a research scientist in the Department of Renewable Resources, who studied grasshoppers under Lockwood. “He was high up in Orthopterists’ [those who study grasshoppers, crickets and the like] Society, traveled around the world. He was widely respected in his field — all at a relatively young age.” But in 2000, Lockwood gave it up to pursue a vague dream of writing. Today, at 51, Lockwood has published a small shelf of books, is a revered professor in UW’s Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts program, and teaches in UW’s philosophy department. What might have been a suicidal career move has panned out.

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