Cover to CoverBooks by UNH faculty and alumni
Resurrection Day, by Brendan DuBois '82
The Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy by Kurkpatrick Dorsey
In the Presence of Horses by Barbara Dimmick '76, '83G
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It's 1972 in Brendan DuBois's new novel, 10 years after the Cuban War. The Boston Globe publishes in every issue what Carl Landry, a general assignment reporter for the paper and the novel's main character, calls the "Bleep You Box." It reads, "To our readers: The stories appearing in today's Boston Globe have been cleared by the U.S. Army under the provisions of the Martial Law Declaration of 1962 and the National Emergency Declaration of 1963."
Martial Law? National Emergency? The Cuban War?
Other Globe headlines will clue you in to the twist on history that DuBois creates in this imaginative story: "U.S. Imposes Arms Blockade on Cuba on Finding Offensive Missile Sites; Kennedy Ready for Soviet Showdown," "Airborne Forces and Marines Land in Cuba; Missile Sites Bombed After U-2 is Lost; Kennedy Warns of 'Grave Days Ahead,'" and "Washington, San Diego, Military Bases Bombed; Kennedy and Most of Congress Believed Dead."
It would be unkind to give away too much of DuBois's plot, so this will suffice: Landry chances upon one of the surviving members of President Kennedy's Executive Committee, who has significant information to share about the beginning of the war. When he is murdered before Landry can meet with him, a race ensues to find the information, and Landry is not sure with whom he is competing.
You will very much enjoy the spins and turns of this clever alternative history, and be both horrified and intrigued with the author's conception of the U.S. after a nuclear war. But the novel is also a thriller, and it will make you think about newspapers and freedom of the press, political secrets and the military, and the truths and myths on which our society functions.
DuBois graduated from UNH in 1982 and is the author of the Lewis Cole mysteries and numerous short stories, which have earned him a Shamus Award and three Edgar Award nominations. In the press materials about this novel, he writes about how his childhood home was only a few miles from a Strategic Air Command base that housed B-52 bombers. "The sight of these mammoth bombers," he writes, "was as common as bicycles dumped on green lawns, or fishing boats on the nearby rivers." But at night, the sound of them taking off was frightening to a young boy huddled in his bed. As was the education that he got from his environment, knowledge about blast zones, MIRVed warheads, ABM systems and evacuation routes.
DuBois puts that information to good use in this novel, a page-turner that will unnerve you and make you feel blessed with the U.S. you have inherited.
The Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy:
U.S.-Canadian Wildlife Protection Treaties in the Progressive Era
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Kurk Dorsey is an assistant professor of history at UNH, and this book was co-winner of the prestigious Stuart L. Bernath Book Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, a prize awarded for the best first book on the history of foreign relations.
It is easy to see why it is a prize-winner. Dorsey has done painstaking research, and he is particularly gifted at clearly explaining complex diplomatic and environmental situations that have a host of different players.
The book examines the first three comprehensive wildlife conservation treaties in history, all between the United States and Canada: the Inland Fisheries Treaty of 1908, the North Pacific Fur Seal Convention of 1911 and the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916. In examining the evolution of these treaties, Dorsey is essentially writing about the origins of environmental diplomacy; indeed, one of the reasons why this book has received recognition is because it is the first full-scale, scholarly study of these three key treaty negotiations. And since we are in an era when we increasingly need to find "an appropriate place for environmental protection in our dealings with other nations," as Dorsey expresses it, it is important to review the precedents.
Dorsey tells you his conclusion at the outset: "In the end, the success or failure of each treaty came down to the ability of conservationists to justify it on both sentimental and economic grounds." The value of the book lies in Dorsey's ability to both reconstruct and interpret the various interests surrounding the making of each treaty. So, for example, in his first chapter on the Migratory Bird Treaty, "Of Mallards and Men, 1883-1913," he describes the economic reasons for what had essentially become a war on birds: "In the 1880s, a fashion trend emerged in which women wore various bird parts on their hats. The most controversial ornament was the aigrette, or plume, from breeding egrets and herons. In the survival-of-the-fittest world of fashion, though, milliners kept trying to outdo each other. In addition to the plumes, they moved to wings, heads, and even whole bodies of songbirds, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, terns and anything else that caught fashion's fancy. Because birds were trendy items, many people became specialists in hunting them for the milliners. Naturally, the demand for some species outstripped their ability to reproduce, and soon prices exploded. For instance, around 1910, an aigrette was worth more than its weight in gold. In turn, the higher prices encouraged gunners to pursue rare species with increased intensity. It was a cycle headed straight for extinction." His analysis of the formation and procedures of bird protection organizations like the Audubon Society shows why the treaty succeeded and, in fact, is still in effect today.
This is an enlightening study of a fascinating part of the Progressive Era in North America.
In the Presence of Horses
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Our relationship with horses has gotten a lot of attention this year—the book jacket for this first novel places it "in the tradition of The Horse Whisperer, and The Man Who Listens to Horses," to cite proof—and Barbara Dimmick makes you understand why. One of the most pleasurable aspects of reading this book is the time Dimmick spends in describing how to care for a horse, the tools needed, the emotional equipment necessary: "Each day, I worked with each of the five schoolies. They were a lively but tractable lot. At first, I tried each on the longe line, clipping the long white web rein to the horse's bit, then standing on foot, and putting them through their paces around me in a circle. I saw that Galen, a small sturdy bay, never took his left lead at the center and that Sheila was clearly a retired broodmare who was pretty certain she knew more than I did. Occasionally, she planted her hooves, gave me a fierce offended look, and then, after she'd forced me to give the whip a little pop in the air behind her, moved off with a flat indignant stride. I thought she was sweet and feisty, and I admired her sense of what was right and what was not, and thought, if I lived that long, it would be nice to be just like her when I grew old." Indeed, if you've never been in love with a horse, this novel will make you feel like you've missed out on something important.
It seems that in hanging around horses, it is possible to live in the present, escaping the elements of a past that might be too painful to confront, and Dimmick is adept at describing that, too. Her main character, Natalie, is a young woman on the run, living out of a truck and moving from farm to farm, staying until she's dangerously close to getting attached. It's a life that suits her, because, as she says, "After you live on your ninth or 10th farm, the world simplifies: the tractor driver is the tractor driver, the accountant is the accountant, the head groom is the head groom. As long as they are good at driving tractors, figuring accounts, or tending horses, you no longer bother yourself about who they are in some other life, or how they are related to one another."
But life, for humans anyway, is never that simple, and eventually neither Natalie nor her mysterious employer can outrun their pasts. The novel is a love letter to horses as well as a tribute to the power of memory, and the result is both heartbreaking and cathartic.Anne Downey, a free-lance writer who lives in Eliot, Maine, received her Ph.D. in English from UNH.