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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.

dear Mr. Fantasy…

May 9, 2013

So a gentleman by the name of Marshal Zeringue who publishes a blog promoting new books asked me to participate in an exercise he calls “My Book, The Movie.” Which is funny, because of all the books with a shot at being turned into movies, mine is probably last in line.

I explain why, and indulge the conceit anyhow, HERE.

more kind words

May 6, 2013

Honestly, I’ve never held out a lot of hope for Opportunity, Montana‘s commercial prospects. It’s just not a book that has bestseller written all over it, and that’s fine by me. If I’d written the thing for money, I’d be a bigger idiot than I care to admit. That said, of course, I wrote the thing to be read, and one of my fondest ambitions for the book is that it might be reviewed by a skilled, thoughtful writer devoting the time and the brainspace to consider it—pro or con—on its merits.

And hey, here it is: Cara Chamberlain, apparently freelancing for the Billings (MT) Gazette, has given the book a lovely review that, in my humble opinion, hits the nail on the head.

Here’s a favorite graf:

Throughout, Tyer blends nature writing and memoir, focused on his estrangement from a perfectionist father, with cultural history and journalistic reporting, including interviews with a variety of local players. The mix can seem a bit unwieldy. But the result is an engaging, almost breathtaking bit of nonfiction.”

Couldn’t have asked for more than that….



“… a moving, entertaining, and a truly remarkable debut…”

April 22, 2013

Should’ve posted this when it came out. Apparently the book has fans at Publishers Weekly. After giving the thing a starred review, they followed up by asking me to write a thousand words on favorite books about small towns. I had to scramble to come up with this, but it was definitely fun. Also fun to have PW refer to Opportunity in the intro as:

… a moving, entertaining, and a truly remarkable debut…

The list starts with my friend Nate Blakeslee’s Tulia:

Tulia1. Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town by Nate Blakeslee – In the late 1990s, a crooked anti-drug task force falsely arrested and convicted 47 residents of the Texas Panhandle town of Tulia, population 5,000. The evidence-free sting put a full fifth of Tulia’s small black community behind bars. Blakeslee follows this story of rogue cops and federal drug policies gone wrong to its semi-satisfying conclusion: the eventual overturning of the grossly ill-gotten sentences. Along the way, he shows a small community’s struggles with economic fate and demographic fact, and how internal divisions open the door to exploitation by unscrupulous outsiders. Also: Some people are still basically racist.

The whole piece is HERE.