Selected Books and Essays

Words on fire
On-going comments on the American fire scene
New book on fire
A concise, lavishly illustrated survey of fire on Earth.
New essay
Reinstating Pragmatism into history and philosophy; co-authored with Ben Minteer.
Recent book
A sideways observation
Sketch of Buzz Aldrin from watching his performance at MIT+150 on the future of exploration.
A remembrance
I knew Bill Goetzmann in his prime in his preferred habitats. He taught us how to turn our experiences into ideas.
Now in paperback
A narrative of the Voyager mission within the larger context of geographic exploration by Western civilization.
Writing manual
Art and craft of writing nonfiction books, especially history.
Centennial fire
Historical survey of the Great Fires, their context and consequences.
Geographic exploration
A group of books organized around the concept of three great ages of discovery
Fire on Earth
Includes fire histories for Earth, America, Canada, Australia, and Europe including Russia. Other books on fire management.
Grand Canyon Suite
The Grand Canyon provides a setting, at least in part, for several books.

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Welcome to my author page

After smokechasing a few books on Voyager, the Pleistocene, and even about how to write books, I've returned to the cache. I'm writing about fire. A lot.

The summer of 2013 was a rolling thunder of media attention. If you want to grab public or political attention, you have to burn a lot of houses, kill people, and overrun celebrity landscapes. This season's fires did all that. I've written five op/​eds, done radio interviews, and appeared in a couple of documentaries. It has all reinvigorated my sense that I need to push my scholarship into print sooner rather than later. I'm trying.

I've long wanted to do a picture book on fire, and thanks to Reaktion Books' Earth Series I have. It's titled Fire: Nature and Culture. Wiley Blackwell published Fire on Earth: An Introduction in December. My co-authors are Andrew Scott, William Bond, David Bowman, and Marty Alexander. The book effectively updates Introduction to Wildland Fire.

But the big story is a survey of the American fire scene since 1960. Briefly, the project envisions two complementary products. Between Two Fires will craft a grand narrative of America's great cultural revolution on fire, while To the Last Smoke will provide color commentary through suites of essays on various themes and regional reconnaissances. After years of studying fire around the world, I'm having to relearn the details of my own country. For particulars, see the project website. Regional suites to date include Florida, California, the Northern Rockies, Great Plains, and the Southwest with another three surveys planned. The University of Arizona Press will publish To the Last Smoke, with up to eight of the regional surveys, beginning in 2015. Meanwhile, it has Between Two Fires,which I completed in draft in August, 2013, out for review. Somehow I doubt, though, that I'll ever be able to declare this particular fire out.

It's been a lot to have taken on - too much, really. But sometimes opportunities come like ketchup out of a bottle. You shake and shake and nothing happens. Then it all comes out with a splat. I've been happy to see it on my plate, and will be happy to see it gone while I reach for another bottle. Some things I guess I never learn.


A condensed survey of fire in Earthly nature and in human culture, lavishly illustrated with photos and art. For more information, click here .

Continental ice, megafauna, erectines and Neanderthals, creation stories, big ideas - what's not to like?


The Grand Tour, and beyond - now in paperback