This book takes us on an exhilarating trip through the American West that few people ever see. It begins with with a city-bound writer for the Washington Post who looks at a map and wonders what’s out there in the empty places. A third of what lies beyond the Rocky Mountains, the most beautiful and rugged “land nobody owns” is the government’s. He quits his job, outfits a van, and takes off.
He soon discovers that this nation-with-a-nation -- the “kingdom” -- is a refuge for idealists and villains, some of the most likable and outrageous individuals anywhere, what he calls “repositories of a national myth.”
In these pages reside, among many others, a hung-over gunslinger in Wyoming, a Basque sheepherder in Idaho who’s a gourmet cook, impoverished gold miners in Arizona, marijuana-growers in California armed with Uzis, a man who sleeps with grizzlies in Glacier Park, dune buggy addicts in the Southwest desert and visionary enviros.
This book exposes the West to some severe revision, but with wit and energy, and leaves the reader thankful that the lower Forty-eight still still harbors splendid travel adventure.
Praise for The Kingdom in the Country, originally published by Houghton Mifflin:
Jim Harrison (author of Legends of the Fall): “A wonderful and well-considered evocation of the New West, all the better because it reads like a fine novel.”
Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose): “He got into places and activities that most native Westerners never even get close to, and he reports them with verve, wit, irony, and a very sharp eye. He gives us, pretty much from the viewpoints of the antagonists, the battles between those who want to use the West, even to death, and those who want to preserve it... He makes abundantly clear that the myths of untrammeled freedom, space, and individualism unchecked by social responsibility thrive... A sound and very lively book.”
Tracey Kidder (Mountains Beyond Mountains): “This immensely entertaining book contains much more than fine writing about beautiful places. It is a portrait gallery of fascinating, characters, hilarious and sad, and... a meditation on the past and future of the ‘World West.’”
Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire), in a letter to James Conaway: “Your book is funny, accurate, honest, informal but well-formed, and glows between the lines with the right kind of anger and outrage at the greed of a powerful few.”