Friday, August 31, 2007


This quoted from the Montana Festival of the Book website:

The 2007 Montana Festival of the Book--September 13-15 in Missoula--will feature scores of the region’s writers in a variety of readings, panels, exhibits, demonstrations, signings, workshops, entertainments, receptions, and other events. More than 6,000 visitors from across the state, the nation, and Europe are expected to attend.

As in years past, the Montana Festival of the Book will feature some of the most important voices of the West, including award-winning authors James Lee Burke, William Kittredge, Deirdre McNamer, Ron Carlson, Larry Watson, Mary Clearman Blew, Pete Fromm, Aryn Kyle, Christy Leskovar, Kat Martin, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Kevin Canty, Alyson Hagy, and many others.

Featured events include:

A Thursday evening Define-a-Thon with master of ceremonies Steve Kleinedler, editor of the American Heritage dictionaries and featuring celebrity teams of “definers.”

Several events celebrating the 2007 One Book Montana selection, The Last Crossing, including a session with the author Guy Vanderhaeghe

A celebration of the publication of a new poetry anthology, Poems Across the Big Sky, featuring many of the book’s contributors

A staged reading of The Story of Mary MacLane, adapted by Joan Melcher, with the Montana Festival of the Book Players

Friday night’s traditional author’s reception and silent auction.

Governor Brian Schweitzer & First Dog, Jag, reading and signing books for kids in Caras Park at 10AM on Saturday.

Panels on fiction of the old and new west, the short story, Shakespeare, and non fiction, writing and publishing workshops for children and adults, book appraisals, exhibits, and much, much more.

Schedules and locations online at

The poster for this year shows Montana scenery pouring out of a book, mountains and buffalo slipping from the pages. Events are recorded for the radio and broadcast later in Montana NPR stations.

I’m scheduled for Saturday morning at 9:30AM at the Holiday Inn Parkside. The title of the panel is not well-considered (“Down Memory Lane”) but the subject is books about memoir and autobiography -- I suppose biography as well since my book about Bob Scriver, “Bronze Inside and Out,” is billed as a “biographical memoir.” No one can read it in advance because it won’t be on the shelves until October, except that Richard Wheeler read it long ago in manuscript and I emailed a couple of chapters to Sue Hart, who will be moderating. You know that I always post a review of events afterwards, but I thought this time that I’d post some advisories ahead of time for the sake of some folks who read this blog and might attend.

The major memoir will be Richard S. Wheeler’s “An Accidental Novelist: a Literary Memoir.” I’ve read it and reviewed it on this blog. He’s written over sixty Westerns and historical novels and is well-established and respected as attested by many awards. You wouldn’t pick him out of a crowd as a cowboy -- he’s given to blue blazers and stingy-brim hats -- and his “oaters” are far more than run-of-the-mill genre, though he would defend genre as a literary category. (Sunstone Press, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0-86534-563-8 and ISBN-10 0-86534-563-5)

Richard’s wife, Sue Hart, a long-time professor of Montana lit at MSUBillings, will moderate. She has yet to write a memoir, but we look forward to it.

Dan Aadland’s book "The Best of All Seasons: Fifty Years as a Montana Hunter" (U of Nebraska Press, 2007), has a teaser on Amazon: page 208: "... that somewhere the elk gods have conferred and concluded that Dan Aadland will be denied. He will see many big bulls when ..." The review posted gives the book five stars.

Ivan Lynn Bowman
’s book is a tough tale of Vietnam: “Who’s My Enemy? Memoirs of an American in Vietnam -- 1969” which got an excellent long review by T.J. Giles (much admired by many Montanans -- where’s HIS memoir?). Bowman sells the books on his website. (Just Google or In case the link doesn’t work, the Giles review is at:

Merle Aus, a just-about retired rancher, also sells his own book, “It’s Better to be Lucky Than Good,” which sounds rather as though -- like most ranchers -- he’s had a bit more experience being good. (At or mail at 454 Road 544, Glendive, MT, 69330.)

Both Merle and Ivan have undertaken self-publishing, a very controversial and newly exploding way of getting books to market when publishers ignore you and you feel strongly about your subject matter. These two authentic writers in particular live far from the all-consuming Manhattan publishing controversies that have gripped headlines for the last year or so. Individuals have written shocking memoirs about combat, drug addiction, abuse, and other challenges to sanity and identity, and then have turned out NOT to have experienced these things -- only to have invented them from friends’ stories or from research and imagination. The publishers, who were willing to pay a lot more money if the books were “authentic,” were aghast at these developments, and such stalwarts as Oprah were quick to desert the authors. But few publishers come to Montana looking for the "real thing."

All of these authors are going against the popular tide in some way: Wheeler against Manhattan’s disdain for Westerns, Aadland against the PETA fueled opposition to hunting, Bowman against war in general but particularly when it’s corrupt and incompetent, and Aus against the gods who somehow doublecross ranchers. My own biography of Bob Scriver, “Bronze Inside and Out” from the University of Calgary Press, is against the marketing strategy of “Roy Rogers Syndrome” in which all cowboy artists are considered strong, good-looking and country-loving -- therefore good painters. Not that Bob was weak, ugly and unpatriotic, but that that’s not what made him a complex and interesting person. This is why I say that “Down Memory Lane,” is probably a pretty weak description of the writing on this panel. We’re ridin’ high trails on half-broke broncs, baby. This here’s Montana!

But maybe I’ll change my mind after reading these books. Maybe I’ll decide that these are cheerful, power-of-positive-thinking works that “nice” people would enjoy. I’ve ordered all the ones I haven’t read, so I’ll post reviews as I plow through them.

1 comment:

Jamie Ford said...

Thanks for posting this info...