BEHIND THE BOOK
A CONVERSATION WITH SCOTT GRAHAM
The National Outdoor Book Award-winning author on SAGUARO SANCTION,
the eighth installment of the National Park Mystery Series
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What’s your first memory of a national park?
When I was ten, I backpacked the Grand Canyon from rim-to-rim with my parents and siblings shortly after we moved from Ohio to Durango, Colorado.
That long-ago backpacking trip was a challenging, exhilarating, and hugely gratifying accomplishment for us newbies from the Midwest. Since then, I’ve spent as much time as possible hiking, biking, rafting, kayaking, and climbing in national parks across the West.
After seven National Park Mysteries, what does Saguaro Sanction add to the series?
I’ve learned through writing the books in my series that issues confronting national parks mirror those elsewhere in life—those issues are never black and white, but various shades of gray. In Saguaro Sanction, I delve into the issue of human migration, and the book is a story of gray-areas spanning right and wrong, and desperation and heartbreak in a place that is at once brutally harsh and stunningly beautiful.
Each of my mysteries, Saguaro Sanction included, is a testament to the value of America’s public lands, and to the importance of fighting for the preservation of those lands, including our iconic national parks, now and in the future.
Why Torrey House?
I first learned of Torrey House Press ten years ago, shortly after the press was founded, when I ran across Recapture, which had been left behind in a backcountry ski hut in Colorado for others to read. I pitched to Torrey House founders Kirsten Allen and Mark Bailey the idea of a fun and entertaining murder mystery series with plot lines revolving around environmental and social justice issues in western national parks. They bit on the concept—and my series and Torrey House Press have been growing together ever since.
I’m a firm believer in the mission of Torrey House Press to develop literary resources for the conservation movement in the West that educate and entertain readers, and inspire action. In particular, I am blown-away impressed by the key role Torrey House played in the 2016 creation of two-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument, which preserves lands in southeast Utah sacred to more than twenty modern Native American tribes, through the publication and dissemination to key stakeholders in Washington, DC, and at the White House of the chapbook.
I’m deeply impressed with the overall quality of writing in THP’s books, and the sincerity and desire to preserve the West and make the world a better place that clearly lie at the heart of all Torrey House authors.
What made you choose Saguaro National Park for your setting this time around?
Migrants crossing the Sonoran Desert into Arizona from Mexico are real people with hopes and dreams, deserving of respect. My primary goal with Saguaro Sanction is to bring that to life for readers. My second goal is to alert readers to the danger climate change presents to the many species of cacti that make the Sonoran Desert unique, including the saguaro.
If you could ask readers to take action in some way after reading your books, what would you ask them to do?
I always encourage readers to visit the national parks I write about. Saguaro National Park is particularly worthy of exploration. It is a little-known gem on the edge of Tucson, Arizona, and I believe readers should experience the Sonoran Desert up-close to personally witness the danger climate change presents to the saguaro cactus and learn about actions they can take personally—like pulling buffelgrass to help save the park’s majestic namesake cactus.
SCOTT GRAHAM is the author of the acclaimed National Park Mystery series, featuring archaeologist Chuck Bender and Chuck’s spouse Janelle Ortega. In addition to the National Park Mystery series, Scott is the author of five nonfiction books, including Extreme Kids, winner of the National Outdoor Book Award. Scott is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys backpacking, river rafting, skiing, and mountaineering. He has made a living as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, radio disk jockey, and coal-shoveling fireman on the steam-powered Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. He lives with his spouse, who is an emergency physician, in Durango, Colorado.
"A history lesson and an exciting mystery full of action. It flows like the river, carrying you along through intense action and brief reflective pauses. Great read! I highly recommend this and all of Scott Graham’s books in the National Park Mystery Series."
— FIVE STAR READER REVIEW OF CANYONLANDS CARNAGE