Books by John Nichols 1987-present
(Henry Holt and Company, 1987), currently out of print. This is a violent novel about violence in America. It's not funny. I wrote it blotto on crystal meth. You need to wear a flak jacket while reading it. The first 30 pages are nothing but atrocities in Vietnam, very tough to take. Four spoonfuls of Smith's cherry flavored Anti-Nausea Liquid might ease your journey. Then my protagonist returns to the United States where the shit really hits the fan. Not for the faint of heart. The L.A. Times called it "...a brutal and scarifying book." It's been on film option, but I pray they never make the movie.
A FRAGILE BEAUTY: John Nichols' Milagro Country
(Peregrine Smith, 1987), currently out of print. Gibbs Smith (the publisher) wanted to cash in on the release of Robert Redford's 1988 film version of The Milagro Beanfield War by issuing this coffee-table book of my color photographs and excerpts from previous non-fiction work. Okay, why not? There's also an extensive photo-illustrated introduction I wrote about the genesis of the movie going way back to my childhood. The film sank like a stone, so the book was immediately remaindered. I only have six copies. I bet collectors pay a fortune for A Fragile Beauty these days, if they can find it.
THE SKY'S THE LIMIT: A Defense of the Earth
(W.W. Norton, 1990), currently out of print. Here's another book full of my color photographs of the beautiful mesa west of the Rio Grande Gorge near where I live. The pictures are offset by an environmental essay about the greenhouse effect, global warming, melting arctic, financial collapse, the usual doomsday scenarios that have all come true. It's my Silent Spring, my Closing Circle, my Inconvenient Truth. Read it and weep.
AN ELEGY FOR SEPTEMBER
(Henry Holt and Company, 1992), currently out of print. A short novel about a one-month September romance between a young girl and an older guy. It takes place up in the hills, and out on a sagebrush plain, and down in the Rio Grande gorge. The L.A. Times said "...it is one of the finest things he has ever written." Cosmopolitan agreed: "As spare as a poem, here is a book for everyone who has let a promise pass by. It's beautiful."
KEEP IT SIMPLE: A Defense of the Earth
(W.W. Norton, 1993), currently out of print. Another book of my photos, this time with almost no text. The second volume of my projected trilogy In Defense of the Earth. I decided to let the pictures speak for themselves. Unfortunately, they came up mute. So my buddy Bill Rusin, the head of sales at Norton, said, "Enough already," and put the kibosh on the third book in this trilogy, The Holiness of Water. So it goes
(Henry Holt and Company, 1994), currently out of print. I like to say that this novel is my answer to Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata. It's a sadistic (hilarious) satire on American marriage. The New York Times said, "...it tears along like a freight train, marital brawls climax in fabulous sex..." Yeah, right. The rest of that Times review panned it big time. But hey, book blurbs are like Crazy Eddie selling used cars, remember him?
DANCING ON THE STONES: Selected Essays
(University of New Mexico Press, 2000), currently still in print, I think. This is a collection of some of my essays over thirty years. Wide ranging, pretty eclectic. Some stuff from Outside, Natural History, Buzzworm, Film Comment, Fly Rod and Reel, and Audubon. Shorter pieces from New Mexico Magazine and various anthologies and literary or political reviews. Topics run the gamut from Hollywood to Armageddon, rafting rivers to writing books, open-heart surgery to grouse hunting. My favorite is an off-the-charts psychotic rant against a roadside zoo called Wild Animal Auschwitz in Kansas
THE VOICE OF THE BUTTERFLY
(Chronicle Books, 2001), currently in print, I think. Buckle your seat belts, this one is a bumpy ride. Maybe not as bad as American Blood, but close. I wanted to write a Batman-movie-style outrageous cartoon about humanity destroying the planet. Perhaps I overdid it. The plot? A quirky bunch of enviro-lunatics tries to halt a bogus highway bypass through their town--Suicide City--that'll take out an endangered butterfly. Publisher's Weekly said it's "...silly, tasteless, wild, profane, and often laugh-out-loud funny." A reviewer for the Knight Ridder newspaper chain called it "...a ferocious satire distinguished by an over-the-top vulgarity all its own." Think William Burroughs meets Hubert Selby jr., directed by Tim Burton and Henry Thoreau.
AN AMERICAN CHILD SUPREME: The Education of a Liberation Ecologist
(Milkweed Editions, 2001), currently in print. A clean serious essay in Milkweed's Credo series about how I stumbled into a social conscience. A short, incisive memoir, no fooling around. Nichols serious for once. In back is a thorough bibliography, up through the year 2001, of every book and article and short story I've published, every book introduction, anthology appearance, sound and video recording I've done, and interviews I've given, also biographical/critical studies and book reviews. Frankly, it’s TMI but some people thrive on this kind of overload. And there's a great afterword by Scott Slovic.
THE EMPANADA BROTHERHOOD
(Chronicle Books, 2007), currently in print, but probably not for long. When I arrived in New York City's Greenwich Village in 1963 I hung out at an Argentine empanada stand near the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal streets. All my buddies spoke Spanish. We were destitute but full of goofiness and dreams. This quiet, funny, and (dare I say it?) poignant novel is set during my befuddled halcyon days in New York before I became a famous novelist and joined the international glitterati. Oh lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.
ON TOP OF SPOON MOUNTAIN
(University of New Mexico Press, 2012) I worked on this novel for 12 years, so obviously it's a masterpiece. Don't take my word, read the book. Jonathan Kepler wants to climb a 13,000 foot high New Mexico Mountain with his adult children, Ben and Miranda, on his 65th birthday. But he's overweight, with heart problems, his life is a mess, his kids know he is crazy. No matter. Pigheaded Jonathan thinks climbing Spoon Mountain will bring him redemption with his offspring come hell or high water. This book is a comedy, a family tragedy, it has a beautiful message. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you won't be disappointed, I promise. Not since The Milagro Beanfield War have I been so on my game. But if I'm wrong you can't get your money back, are you kidding? This is America. The bubble has burst. (Yet my literature soldiers on!)
© Copyright John Nichols 2018
(University of New Mexico press, 2016) This novel is about three intellectual oafs who have a 20-year fishing contest on the Rio Grande River North of Taos. They castigate, curse, cheat, and try to strangle each other every September, but at heart they profoundly love one another. Very funny, but with the poignant and tragic ending. The novel won “Best Book” of 2017 New Mexico-Arizona book awards.
THE ANNUAL BIG ARSENIC FISHING CONTEST
MY HEART BELONGS TO NATURE: A Memoir in photographs and Prose
(University of New Mexico press, 2017) A lovely book, same large size as A Fragile Beauty, that details my life in the natural world of Northern New Mexico. It includes an essay of 11,000 words up front, followed by a 100 pictures of the Taos area fields and fauna, western Mesa and stock ponds, the Rio Grande Gorge, and the Alpine High Country above 12000 feet with it’s bighorn sheep, gray jays, and a magnificent wild landscape that I craved to visit, but could not stay in for long. All photos include extended captions commenting on the pictures. If I never publish another book, this is a gentle and loving way to finish my career.