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hometown review

October 16, 2013

MTbookfestI just got back from last weekend’s Montana Festival of the Book, an event I’ve long attended as a spectator but never had a chance to actually participate in til now. Fun.

And what did I find waiting for me but this very kind review in the Missoula Independent by poet Chris Dombrowski, which review launches thusly:

So dog-eared are the pages of my copy of Opportunity, Montana that from across the desk the book appears waterlogged. Simply put, there’s just that much to like in Brad Tyer’s debut—that much to ingest, puzzle over, learn from, return to.

It’s a hell of a start, and despite learning of a few minor errors I’d made, the rest of the review is similarly generous. And much appreciated. You can READ THE WHOLE THING HERE.

My role in the Festival of the Book comprised a reading and panel on nonfiction writing with fellow writers Jo Deurbrouck (Anything Worth Doing), Todd Wilkinson (Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet) and Gayle Morrison (Hog’s Exit). The Missoulian newspaper covered that panel with quotes from me and my smarter co-panelists.

Next up, the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Oct. 26-27. Hope to see some of y’all there.

what I found…

October 1, 2013


So an online journal called Newfound: An Inquiry of Place, has just published a lengthy excerpt from Opportunity, Montana. Very happy to see this little book’s relatively long tail still wagging…

Give it a read here if ya like.

another new review

September 10, 2013
Milltown Reservoir restoration in progress.

Milltown Reservoir restoration in progress.

Estimable environmental author and Pomona prof Char Miller (disclosure: I’ve occasionally worked with Char on a freelance basis; he used to teach at San Antonio’s Trinity University, whence he contributed to The Texas Observer, where I worked (and work again) as an editor) has done me the great good kindness of reviewing Opportunity, Montana from a vantage of no small expertise.

Although I have walked the trails that hug the Clark Fork River as it flows through Missoula, Montana, I’ve never canoed those cold waters. If I ever did, I’d want Brad Tyer in the stern as my guide, showing me how to navigate its boisterous length, how to read the complex natural landscape and built environment as we floated by.

After a 2011 run down the powerful snow-melt-pushed river, in which he and his fellow travelers barreled downstream so fast that they covered in “twenty minutes what usually takes an hour,” the flotilla swung on to a gravelly beach. This was not just any rest-stop: Above them was the wide and welcoming deck of one of the Garden City’s best watering holes, the Finn and Porter Restaurant; beer awaited. “Missoula is nice like that.”

That much I knew.

What I had not known until reading Tyer’s unsettling, page-turner of a new book, “Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape,” was the complicated past and present of the Clark Fork—and why we should care about its turbulent history and contemporary dilemmas.


Great Falls weighs in

August 19, 2013

On Sunday the Great Falls (Montana) Tribune got around to reviewing Opportunity, Montana. Thanks to staffer Kristen Inbody for the good notice.

READ IT here.

birds and words

June 25, 2013


Man am I thrilled to see that Audubon Magazine is running an excerpt of Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape. I’ll excerpt the excerpt below, but you can read the whole (partial) thing here.

It’s becoming easier to take the poison part for granted and ignore it in favor of the more immediate sensory experience. The distinct but conjoined sounds of rippling water and wind gusting dry grass is momentarily exquisite. The hills, starting to close in here at the tail end of the valley, are arranged in soft undulations and shadowed with the contours of weathered mudslides. Bright light gives depth and volume to their monochromatic swell, and for a minute I entertain the fancy that I could grab the hills’ skin like the hem of a bedspread and unfurl it into the sky, snapping off the slickened soil and toppling the dwarfish pinyons, and let it waft back to rest refreshed.

Take away the fences, the concrete rubble, the mine waste, and the occasional noise blown over from the interstate and I could almost convince myself that I’m paddling through virgin Montana prairie, but then I don’t know what virgin prairie would look like. The pinyons that look to me to be stunted by mine waste could just be the offspring of a naturally dry microclimate, growing exactly the way nature intended. The relative lack of river-bottom cottonwoods may be nothing more than the spotty expression of thin and naturally alkaline soils. Whatever “natural state” means, there’s no sorting it out now.

Missoula review

May 28, 2013

arsenic workerMissoula author Bill Vaughn, a writer I admire (and with whom I got to be friendly over the course of  more than a few tennis outings over the past couple of years) has just posted a nice review of Opportunity, Montana to his very fine blog Dark Acres.

Backed up behind the rickety old Milltown Dam nearby was a 180-acre bed of mining wastes in places twenty feet deep. How this caustic pile of shit got there and what would be done about it is the topic of Brad Tyer’s Opportunity, Montana, a deft and theatrical account of the bizarre mess copper mining has left behind in Montana, and the efforts to remove the antiquated Milltown Dam and clean up the largest Superfund site in the western U.S.

As usual with Bill, the whole thing is a finely written story in its own right. Check it out here.

Opportunity On-Air

May 17, 2013

On May 2, 2013, I had the pleasure of presenting Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Lanscape at Monkeywrench Books in Austin, Texas. Austin’s KOOP Radio, in the person of producer Allan Campbell, was kind enough to record the event for KOOP’s People United show, which has ARCHIVED THE AUDIO HERE.


Big thanks to Monkeywrench, KOOP 91.7 FM, and all the friends who came out to listen.