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A devastating and lyrical work of nonfiction, Young Men and Fire describes the events of August 5, 1949, when a crew of fifteen of the US Forest Service’s elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Two hours after their jump, all but three of the men were dead or mortally burned. Haunted by these deaths for forty years, Norman Maclean puts together the scattered pieces of the Mann Gulch tragedy in Young Men and Fire, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Alongside Maclean’s now-canonical A River Runs through It and Other Stories, Young Men and Fire is recognized today as a classic of the American West. This twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Maclean’s later triumph—the last book he would write—includes a powerful new foreword by Timothy Egan, author of The Big Burn and The Worst Hard Time. As moving and profound as when it was first published, Young Men and Fire honors the literary legacy of a man who gave voice to an essential corner of the American soul.
On Aug. 5, 1949, 16 Forest Service smoke jumpers landed at a fire in remote Mann Gulch, Mont. Within an hour, 13 were dead or irrevocably burned, caught in a ``blowup''--a rare explosion of wind and flame. The late Maclean, author of the acclaimed A River Runs Through It , grew up in western Montana and worked for the Forest Service in his youth. He visited the site of the blowup; for the next quarter century, the tragedy haunted him. In 1976 he began a serious study of the fire, one that occupied the last 14 years of his life. He enlisted the aid of fire experts, survivors, friends in the Forest Service and reams of official documents. The result is an engrossing account of human fallibility and natural violence. The tragedy was a watershed in Forest Service training--knowledge and techniques have since been improving--and this work will interest Maclean's many admirers. Photos not seen by PW. 30,000 first printing.