Thursday, September 30, 2010


"It's been said that a place doesn't exist until a writer, a photographer, or a painter portrays it and presents a version of it to the rest of the culture." So says historian Dan Flores.

Visions of the Big Sky is the book. Dan Flores is the author/historian. The Write Question is the program. And, for the first time, a program will be continued. Part 1, September 30. Part 2, October 7.

Just a few of the questions you'll hear answered during these two programs: Why do writers congregate in Montana? Did Custer really have a Last Stand? What caused Fra Dana to quit painting? Why did eastern critics pan the landscape photography of Ansel Adams (and should we care what they think)?

Tune in Thursday, September 30 and October 7 -- 6:30 on Yellowstone Public Radio or 7:30 on Montana Public Radio.

Or listen online:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Carol Buchanan's Gold Under Ice

New from western author Carol Buchanan (and a new Montana-based publisher), Gold Under Ice.

Here's an excerpt:

     As if all the cannons of North and South fired a ragged volley, as if all the black powder in Alder Gulch blew, the ice over Alder Creek broke, boomed, split into clashing chunks; echoes rebounded on echoes, pulsing in Dan Stark’s ears, and blanching the faces of two men who had been skating just a minute before. The fat man walking on the ice disappeared.
     “Get a rope!” yelled Dan over the rolling thunder. “Run!"
     Martha McDowell hoisted her skirts to run stumbling through soft snow up Wallace Street, where men already hurried toward her with ropes in their hands.
     Dan could not wait for them. “Your scarf!” One of the skaters wore a muffler several feet long. Dan bolted toward an outcropping into the stream, cursing the snow that mired his ankles and pillowed the banks, obscuring their outlines. As he ran, a sense of relief rolled below the uppermost thought – save him, save him
     From the time the ice riming the shores had joined in the middle and thickened, all of Alder Gulch had waited for it to break and melt away, so they could return to work their gold claims. Now, in mid-April, the ice was breaking.
     The skater made a ball of his muffler, and pitched it to Dan, who caught its fringe, made a hasty loop, and ran as in a nightmare, seeming to get no closer. The black water foamed white, flung up slabs of ice, damming itself, then tore the dam apart, rampaging against its banks, scouring away snow, rocks, contraptions, claim markers, and hope. A few yards upstream, the fat man, arms flailing, broke the surface, gasped and coughed. How long could a man survive such cold?
     Dan threw the loop toward him as hard and as far as he could. Fell short. The man fought the water. Dan reeled the loop in, pushed through the snow as close as he dared to the tip of the outcrop. The sodden loop threw better when Dan flung it out and slightly downstream. The fat man plunged for it, and the creek hurled arm and shoulder into the loop. A slab of ice hit his head, and he sank. Dan braced himself, wrapping the scarf, stretched to a rope, around his hands. Squatting against the water’s jealous pull, he dug his heels into the snow. Yelled for help.
     Up the man came again, unconscious, his body given to the water and the cold, his arms limp. The roiling water tossed him, played with him, sent him past Dan. Though thinking he was dead – then why fight the flood? Dan braced himself, hauled on the rope. His boots could not find purchase; the creek dragged him toward its brink. He would drown, too, if he did not let go, but he could not bring himself to unwrap the cord biting into his hands, though the bank, leaning outward, settled under his feet.
     Christ, he thought, don’t let us both be carried away. The man rose higher in the water – or did the ground sink? Dan clenched his jaws and dug in his heels, almost sat in the snow: Goddammit he would win this battle with the creek, even if for a corpse.

*     *     *     *     *     *
Gold Under Ice is the sequel to Buchanan's award-winning first novel, God's Thunderbolt. Find out more about Carol Buchanan at her Web site:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale

Sneed B. Collard III has captured one of the West's premier rodeo events with photographs and stories in his new book The World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse Sale.

For sixty years, the Miles City Bucking Horse Sale has helped keep Western traditions alive. Begun as a way for local ranchers to get rid of spoiled and unruly ranch horses, the Sale today has grown into a four-day celebration of rodeo, ranching, arts, and culture.

The actual auction of bucking horses and bulls remains at the heart of the event, but the Bucking Horse Sale has become a celebration of all aspects of Western life. It is, quite simply, the Cowboy Mardi Gras.

Collard has written more than 50 books for young readers, and adults. In 2006, he won the prestigious Washington Post Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award for his body of work.

Thursday, September 23, Collard talks with The Write Question producer Chérie Newman about the Bucking Horse Sale and reads from his book. He also talks about why he started his own publishing company.

6:30 p.m. on Yellowstone Public Radio
7:30 p.m. on Montana Public Radio
Anytime online:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Poets of the American West

If you think poetry is incomprehensible or just for English majors, a new collection could change your mind. New Poets of the American West, edited by Lowell Jaeger and published by Many Voices Press, is full of "accessible" poetry written by people who live and work in all the normal places.

In the book's introduction, University of Montana professor Brady Harrison writes: "In New Poets of the American West, we hear from Native Americans and first-generation immigrants, from ranchlanders and megaopolites, from poet-teachers and street-poets, and more. In fact, the West is so big, and home to such diversity that the deeper one reads in this anthology, the more voices and world views one encounters, the more textures of thought, emotion, and language one discovers, the less we may find ourselves able to speak of a single, stable something called the American West. Rather, we may find ourselves living in (or reading into) not one West, but many.”

This week on The Write Question, Sandra Alcosser, Montana's first Poet Laureate, joins me (Chérie Newman) to talk about this collection. Alcosser also reads several poems, including two of her own. Judy Blunt, Roger Dunsmore, David Romtvedt, and Kate Northrop also read.

You can listen to the program Thursday evening at 7:30 on Montana Public Radio, or at 6:30 on Yellowstone Public Radio. Or anytime online from this link.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Keir Graff and The Price of Liberty

Keir Graff grew up in Missoula, Montana, graduated from Hampshire College, and now works in Chicago as a Senior Editor for Booklist Online. Somehow during the last few years, while co-parenting two sons (with his über supportive wife, Marya) and working full-time, Graff has managed to publish four political crime novels.

Here's a description of his latest, The Price of Liberty (posted at Graff's Web site):

"Jack McEnroe is a construction worker with an unusual job: building a prison for terrorists. Like his neighbors in Red Rock, Wyoming, Jack isn't particularly concerned about politics. In a depressed rural economy, he's just grateful to have a job.

Jack's boss, Dave Fetters, is grateful, too: he has a no-bid, cost-plus contract issued by the previous administration. It's his last chance to get rich, and he's making the most of it.

But Dave is cooking the books, passing inflated costs along to defense contractor Halcyon Corporation—and Jack's ex-wife, Kyla, plans to blow the whistle. Suddenly, everyone Jack cares about, including his two young children, is in danger.

As the first winter snows fall in the rugged mountains, Jack must navigate a razor-wire labyrinth to rescue those he loves. And the true price of liberty, he discovers, is paid not in dollars, but human life."

Hear Keir Graff on The Write Question Thursday, September 9, at 6:30 p.m. (Yellowstone Public Radio) or 7:30 p.m. (Montana Public Radio).

Or use this link to listen online anytime and find more information about Keir Graff.