Monday, January 16, 2012

Mystery Making in the National Parks

In Episode 17 of ON THE ROAD WITH MAC AND MOLLY, Nevada Barr, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Anna Pigeon mystery series joins us.

THE ROPE, Nevada's 17th book featuring the crime-solving park ranger, Anna, has just been released. The New York Times has called the Pigeon series, "Thrilling!" USA Today has deemed Nevada's books, "Extraordinary!" And the Boston Globe raves: “Nevada Barr is one of the best!”

Nevada was born in the small western town of Yerington, Nevada and was raised on a mountain airport in the Sierras. Both of her parents were pilots and mechanics and her sister, Molly, continued the tradition by becoming a pilot for US Air. Nevada says that, when she was pushed out of the nest, she landed in the theatre, receiving her Bachelor's degree in Speech and Drama and her Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting. Following graduation, she made her way to New York City and, for 18 years, worked on stage, in commercials, and in industrial training films. She also did some voice work for radio.

Nevada Barr. Photo by Donald Paxton.
Over this time, however, she became increasingly interested in the environmental movement, and started spending her summers working in the National Parks – Isle Royale in Michigan; the Guadalupe Mountains in Texas; Mesa Verde in Colorado; and then on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi. While she was serving as a seasonal park ranger, she was also writing travel pieces and restaurant reviews and she was weaving stories for sharing at the campfire. She eventually began to turn out longer tales and her first novel – Bittersweet – saw publication in 1983.

The Anna Pigeon series, featuring a park ranger as the protagonist, came to life when she fully married her love of writing with her love of the wilderness. Her first book of the 17, The Track of the Cat, was released in 1993 and it was honored with both the Agatha and Anthony awards for best first mystery. Next, in 1994, came A Superior Death, loosely based on Nevada’s experiences as a boat patrol ranger on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Then in 1995, it was Ill Wind, set in Mesa Verde where Nevada had worked – for two seasons – as a law enforcement ranger.

Her latest, The Rope, is a prequel set in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area that surrounds Lake Powell and lower Cataract Canyon in Utah and Arizona. In this book, we’re provided with the previously untold story of Anna’s first foray into the wild and the case that helped shape her into the ranger she became.

A reviewer for the New York Times opined that Nevada “has a real feeling for creatures who live in the wild, especially women who can’t be tamed.” In our time together, we’ll try to get a sense of how much of Anna is in Nevada and how much of Nevada is in Anna and we’ll hear amusing as well as alarming anecdotes about the wild animals this remarkable woman has encountered. 

We’ll also hear what the folks of the National Park Service think of all the evil doin’s that Nevada has set in their surrounds. Here’s a hint: Nevada was the 2011 recipient of the Robin W. Winks Award, given annually to people and/or organizations recognized for enhancing public understanding of the National Parks. Previous awardees have included Tom Brokaw, Ken Burns and the National Geographic Society. Nevada speaks to us from her home in New Orleans.


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Cure for Sweaty Feet

    1. Thank you for your words of encouragement!
      Best, Donna