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Timothy Egan - book author

Timothy Egan is a Pulitzer Prize winning author of nine books, including THE WORST HARD TIME, which won the National Book Award. His latest book, A PILGRIMAGE TO ETERNITY, is a personal story, a journey over an ancient trail, and a history of Christianity. He also writes a biweekly opinion column for The New York Times. HIs book on the photographer Edward Curtis, SHORT NIGHTS OF THE SHADOW CATCHER, won the Carnegie Medal for best nonfiction. His Irish-American book, THE IMMORTAL IRISHMAN, was a New York Times bestseller. A third-generation native of the Pacific Northwest, he lives in Seattle.

Timothy Egan is the author of books: The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero, The Good Rain: Across Time & Terrain in the Pacific Northwest, Breaking Blue, Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West, A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith, The Winemaker's Daughter, The Long Darkness

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01
The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Timothy Egan's critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, "the stoic, long suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respect" (New York Times).

In an era that promises ever-greater natural disasters, The Worst Hard Time is "arguably the best nonfiction book yet" (Austin Statesman Journal) on the greatest environmental disaster ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature.
02
On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno that jumped from treetop to ridge as it raged, destroying towns and timber in the blink of an eye. Forest rangers had assembled nearly ten thousand men  —  college boys, day workers, immigrants from mining camps  —  to fight the fire. But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers nor anyone else knew how to subdue them.

Egan narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force. Equally dramatic is the larger story he tells of outsized president Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pioneering the notion of conservation, Roosevelt and Pinchot did nothing less than create the idea of public land as our national treasure, owned by and preserved for every citizen. The robber barons fought Roosevelt and Pinchot’s rangers, but the Big Burn saved the forests even as it destroyed them: the heroism shown by the rangers turned public opinion permanently in their favor and became the creation myth that drove the Forest Service, with consequences still felt in the way our national lands are protected  —  or not —  today.
03
How a lone man's epic obsession led to one of America's greatest cultural treasures: Prize-winning writer Timothy Egan tells the riveting, cinematic story behind the most famous photographs in Native American history -- and the driven, brilliant man who made them.

Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous photographer, the Annie Leibovitz of his time. He moved in rarefied circles, a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars, leading thinkers. And he was thirty-two years old in 1900 when he gave it all up to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continent’s original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared.

An Indiana Jones with a camera, Curtis spent the next three decades traveling from the Havasupai at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the Acoma on a high mesa in New Mexico to the Salish in the rugged Northwest rain forest, documenting the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. It took tremendous perseverance - ten years alone to persuade the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. And the undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate. Eventually Curtis took more than 40,000 photographs, preserved 10,000 audio recordings, and is credited with making the first narrative documentary film. In the process, the charming rogue with the grade school education created the most definitive archive of the American Indian.

His most powerful backer was Theodore Roosevelt, and his patron was J. P. Morgan. Despite the friends in high places, he was always broke and often disparaged as an upstart in pursuit of an impossible dream. He completed his masterwork in 1930, when he published the last of the twenty volumes. A nation in the grips of the Depression ignored it. But today rare Curtis photogravures bring high prices at auction, and he is hailed as a visionary. In the end he fulfilled his promise: He made the Indians live forever.
04
National Book Award winner Timothy Egan delivers a story of one of the most famous Irish Americans of all time. A dashing young orator during the Great Hunger of the 1840s, Thomas Francis Meagher led a failed uprising against British rule, for which he was banished to a Tasmanian prison colony for life. But two years later he was “back from the dead” and in New York, instantly the most famous Irishman in America. Meagher’s rebirth included his leading the newly formed Irish Brigade in many of the fiercest battles of the Civil War. Afterward, he tried to build a new Ireland in the wild west of Montana—a quixotic adventure that ended in the  great mystery of his disappearance, which Egan resolves convincingly at last.
05
Timothy Egan describes his journeys in the Pacific Northwest through visits to salmon fisheries, redwood forests and the manicured English gardens of Vancouver. Here is a blend of history, anthropology and politics.
06
In 1935, the Spokane police regularly extorted sex, food, and money from the reluctant hobos (many of them displaced farmers who had fled the midwestern dust bowls), robbed dairies, and engaged in all manner of nefarious crimes, including murder. This history was suppressed until 1989, when former logger, Vietnam vet, and Spokane cop Tony Bamonte discovered a strange 1955 deathbed confession while researching a thesis on local law enforcement history. Bamonte began to probe what had every appearance of widespread police crime and a massive cover-up whose highlight was the unsolved murder of Town Marshall George Conff. The fact that many of those involved, now in their 80s and 90s, were still alive made it imperative that Bamonte unravel this mystery. The result is Breaking Blue, a white-knuckle ride through institutional corruption and cover-up that vividly documents Depression-era Spokane and an extraordinary case that few believed would ever be brought to light.
07
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Winner of the Mountains and Plains Book Seller's Association Award

"Sprawling in scope. . . . Mr. Egan uses the past powerfully to explain and give dimension to the present." --The New York Times

"Fine reportage . . . honed and polished until it reads more like literature than journalism." --Los Angeles Times

"They have tried to tame it, shave it, fence it, cut it, dam it, drain it, nuke it, poison it, pave it, and subdivide it," writes Timothy Egan of the West; still, "this region's hold on the American character has never seemed stronger." In this colorful and revealing journey through the eleven states west of the 100th meridian, Egan, a third-generation westerner, evokes a lovely and troubled country where land is religion and the holy war between preservers and possessors never ends.

Egan leads us on an unconventional, freewheeling tour: from America's oldest continuously inhabited community, the Ancoma Pueblo in New Mexico, to the high kitsch of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where London Bridge has been painstakingly rebuilt stone by stone; from the fragile beauty of Idaho's Bitterroot Range to the gross excess of Las Vegas, a city built as though in defiance of its arid environment. In a unique blend of travel writing, historical reflection, and passionate polemic, Egan has produced a moving study of the West: how it became what it is, and where it is going.

"The writing is simply wonderful. From the opening paragraph, Egan seduces the reader. . . . Entertaining, thought provoking."
--The Arizona Daily Star Weekly

"A western breeziness and love of open spaces shines through Lasso the Wind. . . . The writing is simple and evocative."
--The Economist
08
Moved by his mother's death and his Irish Catholic family's complicated history with the church, Timothy Egan decided to follow in the footsteps of centuries of seekers to force a reckoning with his own beliefs. He embarked on a thousand-mile pilgrimage through the theological cradle of Christianity, exploring one of the biggest stories of our time: the collapse of religion in the world that it created. Egan sets out along the Via Francigena, once the major medieval trail leading the devout to Rome, and makes his way overland via the alpine peaks and small mountain towns of France, Switzerland and Italy. The goal: walking to St. Peter's Square, in hopes of meeting the galvanizing pope who is struggling to hold together the church through the worst crisis in half a millennium.

Making his way through a landscape laced with some of the most important shrines to the faith, Egan finds a modern Canterbury Tale in the chapel where Queen Bertha introduced Christianity to pagan Britain; parses the supernatural in a French town built on miracles; and journeys to the oldest abbey in the Western world, founded in 515 and home to continuous prayer over the 1,500 years that have followed. He is accompanied by a quirky cast of fellow pilgrims and by some of the towering figures of the faith--Joan of Arc, Henry VIII, Martin Luther.

A thrilling journey, a family story, and a revealing history, A Pilgrimage to Eternity looks for our future in its search for God.

One of Oprah's Must-Read Books of Fall 2019
09
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times national correspondent Timothy Egan turns to fiction with The Winemaker's Daughter, a lyrical and gripping novel about the harsh realities and ecological challenges of turning water into wine.

When Brunella Cartolano visits her father on the family vineyard in the basin of the Cascade Mountains, she's shocked by the devastation caused by a four-year drought. Passionate about the Pacific Northwest ecology, Brunella, a cultural impact analyst, is embroiled in a battle to save the Seattle waterfront from redevelopment and to preserve a fisherman's livelihood. But when a tragedy among fire-jumpers results from a failure of the water supply–her brother Niccolo is among those lost--Brunella finds herself with another mission: to find out who is sabotaging the area's water supply. Joining forces with a Native American Forest Ranger, she discovers deep rifts rooted in the region's complicated history, and tries to save her father's vineyard from drying up for good . . . even as violence and corruption erupt around her.
10
Drawing on the voices of those who stayed and survived, those who are now in their 80s and 90s, Timothy Egan tells a story of endurance and heroism against the backdrop of the Great Depression.