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Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

November 13, 2012

The latest book from National Book Award winning author Timothy Egan has been raking in accolades since its publication last month. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis tells the fascinating story of how a lone man’s obsession led to one of America’s greatest cultural treasures.

Edward Curtis was charismatic, handsome, a passionate mountaineer, and a famous photographer. He was a friend to presidents, vaudeville stars, and leading thinkers, but gave it all up to pursue his Great Idea: to capture on film the continent’s original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared. Curtis spent the next three decades documenting the stories and rituals of more than eighty tribes. It took ten years alone to persuade the Hopi to allow him into their Snake Dance ceremony. Eventually Curtis took more than 40,000 photographs, preserved 10,000 audio recordings, and is credited with making the first narrative documentary film. Despite powerful backers including Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, he was always broke and often disparaged as an upstart in pursuit of an impossible dream. He completed his masterwork in 1930, when he published the last of the twenty volumes. A nation in the grips of the Depression ignored it. But today rare Curtis pieces bring high prices at auction, and he is hailed as a visionary.

“Timothy Egan brings liveliness and a wealth of detail to his biography of the legendary American photographer Edward Sheriff Curtis . . . Evenhanded and free of conjecture . . . This is a riveting biography of an American original.” – Kathryn Lang, The Boston Globe

“Mr. Egan fills his chronicle with bright turns of phrase and radiant descriptions, making both places and people come alive . . . [The] biography is, ultimately, a sweeping tale about two vanishing ways of life.” – Wayne Curtis, The Wall Street Journal

“Egan’s excellent book stands as a fitting tribute to an American original who fought for a people with his camera and his art.” – Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times

“[Short Nights] mesmerizes–it’s instructive, entertaining and a joy to read . . . When it comes to superlative historical writing, this is as good as it gets . . . Dazzling.” – Shelf Awareness

“In this hauntingly beautiful book, Egan brings Curtis to life as vividly and with as much depth, heart and understanding as Curtis himself put into his timeless portraits. This is a story for the ages.” — Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic

“Edward Curtis’s hauntingly beautiful photographs have graced gallery walls and coffee tables for generations—and his work remains essential to our conception of the American West. Now, in this extraordinary biography, Tim Egan has deftly captured the man behind the images, revealing a great American adventurer who lived at the fragile, fertile intersection of history, anthropology, and art.” — Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder

A gallery of Edward Curtis’s photographs is available online from the New York Times. You can read an excerpt from the book or hear Egan discussing Curtis on NPR’s Weekend Sunday Edition here. In addition to the New York Times bestseller list, the book has appeared on the Indie Next Bestseller List and the NPR Bestseller List, been selected as Apple’s Book of the Week, and been selected as one of Amazon’s best books of 2012.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher is available now from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and your local indie bookstore.

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