Books

Under The Mountain Wall

Peter Matthiessen

In the Baliem Valley in central New Guinea lived a Stone Age tribe which survived into the twentieth century - the Kurelu. Matthiessen joined the Harvard-Peabody Expedition of 1961which set out to study the tribe as unobtrusively as possible, living among the Kurelu for two seasons. The result was this classic account, not of the expedition but of a lost culture; the Kurelu's timeless rhythms of work and play, of warriorship, feasting and funerals. In Under the Mountain Wall Matthiessen illuminates the lives of the Kurelu's with respect and sympathy, capturing a culture untouched by civilisation and vanishing along with the wilderness lying beneath the dramatic peaks of the Snow Mountains.

African Silences

Peter Matthiessen

African Silences is a spellbinding and sobering journey through Africa’s ravaged wildernesses. In 1978 and again in 1986, Matthiessen travelled through Senegal, Gambia, the Ivory Coast, Zaire and the Central African Republic to examine the fate of West African wildlife. African Silences shows Matthiessen at his best, taking the reader on hair-raising flights over forest and savanna, high-speed dashes by car along dirt roads, and slow journeys by river boat and jungle track, to encounter rare and endangered animals – elephants, gorillas and rhinos amongst them – and the wildlife biologists who study and attempt to protect them.

Lost Man's River

Peter Matthiessen

When Watson’s son Lucius returns to the treacherous wilderness of the Everglades searching for the truth about his father’s death, the coast’s lawless inhabitants, alligator poachers and moonshiners hold close their secrets, and a deep uneasiness drifts through the region like a low swamp mist.

The Cloud Forest

Peter Matthiessen

Peter Mattiessen has long been known for his travels to some of the remotest lands on earth, most notably recorded in The Snow Leopard. The Cloud Forest brings to vivid life a South American journey that took him from the Sargasso Sea to the jungles of Amazonia, from the Inca city of Machu Picchu high in the Andes to the bleak rocks of Tierra del Fuego and the winds and vast skies of Patagonia.

The result is an incisive and marvellously well-observed journal by a born writer and naturalist, a voyage of exploration among the people, places and fading wildlife of this most exotic and mysterious of continents.

An African Trilogy

Peter Matthiessen

During the 1970s and 1980s, Peter Matthiessen took part in a number of expeditions to Africa, witnessing first-hand the continent’s many and diverse peoples and wildlife. The fruits of these journeys are three of the most impressive essays on the natural world of the late twentieth century.

The Tree where Man Was Born documents wild landscapes, peoples and animals, observed in a series of journeys in East Africa, from the Sudan, south through Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, exploring the Serengeti, the Maasai Mara, the Ngorongoro crater and the archaeological sites of the Rift Valley.

African Silences recounts two expeditions made to West and Central Africa, including Zaire (as it then was), Gabon and the Central African Republic.

Sand Rivers describes the Selous game reserve in Southern Tanzania, one of the largest, but least-known refuges for animals left on earth, and provides an unforgettable portrait of this area and the fierce, lonely men who created it.

These three classic works represent Matthiessen the naturalist at his finest; written an all-encompassing curiosity and knowledge that brings alive the people, places and wildlife he encounters, and updated with a new introduction by the author.

Bone by Bone

Peter Matthiessen

In this magnificent novel, which is the conclusion to the celebrated Watson trilogy, E.J. Watson tells his own story, through his turbulent life, to his death at the hands of vigilantes. From his destitute childhood in South Carolina, and the terrible events which haunt him for the rest of his days, the narrative shifts to the wilds of the Florida Everglades. Here, Watson establishes himself as a successful sugar-cane farmer, trying in vain to escape his past, and the uncontrollable, vicious side of his nature which is ultimately his downfall.

Intelligent, a devoted husband and a lover, a stern father and a man capable of cruelty and cold-blooded murder, Watson is a character staggeringly real in his complexity. Bone by Bone confronts not only the racism, brutality and entrepeneurial greed of the American South at the turn of the century but also the paradox at the heart of human nature: our capacity for fierce love, compassion and unspeakable violence.

The Snow Leopard

Peter Matthiessen

One September, the writer and explorer Peter Matthiessen set out with field biologist George Schaller to journey 250 miles through the Himalayas to the Crystal Mountain on the Tibetan plateau. They wanted to study the wild blue sheep, the bharal, but also hoped to see the snow leopard, a creature so rarely spotted as to be nearly mythical. The Snow Leopard is not only an exquisite book of natural history but an extraordinary account of an inner journey ; a 'true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart.'

Blue Meridian

Peter Matthiessen

In 1969 Peter Matthiessen set out with the expedition led by Peter Gimbel, whose aim was to find and film underwater for the first time the most dangerous of all sea creatures - the great white shark. Acting as the expedition's chronicler and spare hand (both on the surface and below), Matthiessen accompanied the crew from the Carribean to the whaling grounds off the Durban coast, to various islands in the Indian Ocean, to Ceylon, and finally to success off the bleak south coast of Australia.

Blue Meridian records the awesome experience of swimming in open water among hundreds of sharks, the beauties of strange seas and landscapes and the camaraderie, humour and tension of people who live in close proximity and risk their lives day by day.

In The Spirit Of Crazy Horse

Peter Matthiessen

On a hot June morning in 1975, a shoot-out between FBI agents and American Indians erupted on a reservation near Wounded Knee in South Dakota. Two FBI agents and one Indian died. Eventually four Indians, all members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) were indicted on murder charges, Twenty-two years late, one of them, Leonard Peltier, is still serving two consecutive life sentences.

The story of what really happened and why Matthiessen is convinced of Peltier’s innocence, forms the central narrative in this classic work of investigative reporting. But Mathiessen also reveals the larger issues behind the Pine Ridge shoot-out: systematic discrimination by the white authorities; corporate determination to exploit the uranium deposits in the Black Hills; the breaking of treaties; and FBI hostility towards the AIM, which was set up to bring just such issues to light.

When this book was first published it was immediately the subject of two $25 million-dollar legal actions that attempted to suppress it permanently. After eight years of court battles, ending with a Supreme Court judgement, Mathiessen won the right to tell Peltier’s and his people’s story.

Biography

Peter Matthiessen was a naturalist, explorer and writer. His works of fiction include At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Far Tortuga and the acclaimed 'Watson Trilogy'. His explorations resulted in many fine works of non-fiction, among them The Snow Leopard, The Cloud Forest and The Tree where Man was Born. He died in 2014, aged 86.