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Desert Between the Mountains: Mormons, Miners, Padres, Mountain Men, and the Opening of the Great Basin, 1772-1869 Paperback – September 15, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (September 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806131861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806131863
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,912,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

An adequate, if hackneyed, rehearsal of a century's worth of history in the Great Basin region from Durham (a longtime editor for Life magazine). Durham's three-part narrative is not so much an original work of scholarship as an impressionistic synthesis of the state's history. This approach inevitably sacrifices depth for breadth. The book's publication is timed to coincide with the sesquicentennial celebration of the Mormon arrival in the region. But Mormons don't even appear until Durham has given us a hundred pages of Spanish explorers, fur-trapping ``mountain men,'' trailblazers like Jedediah Smith, and a reprisal of the ill-fated Donner-Reed party. This history is admittedly important, but Durham breezes through it with little analysis and too many stereotypical characterizations. When he addresses the Mormon experience, he does so with a remarkable and welcome impartiality, but his attempt to address the complexities of Mormon polygamy is unpersuasive, and he offers nothing original except a one-line, unsupported rebuttal of the long-standing tradition that Mormons crossed the frozen Mississippi River on foot. The lack of citations, here and elsewhere, is irritating. But the book has its good points: The best chapter is undoubtedly Durham's recital of the incidents leading up to the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, when a Mormon-led party--feeling persecuted and mobilized for a possible battle with the US army- -murdered more than 120 adults and children passing through southern Utah toward California. But just when the story becomes engrossing, Durham abandons it for another trajectory, exploring the opening of Utah via the telegraph, Pony Express, and railroad, and introducing still more strands to an already crowded narrative. Durham is a fine storyteller, but he wants to tell too many stories. What's more, the lack of original research leaves the book seeming more like a recapitulation than an original or necessary work. (50 b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Michael S. Durham, a former writer and correspondent for Life magazine and editor of Americana magazine, is author of The Desert States, a volume in the Smithsonian Guide to Historic America series. His latest book is the National Geographic Guide to New York City.


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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael E. Fitzgerald on October 7, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Pay close attention to the Kirkus review above. Hackneyed is the correct description of this work. It goes off on so many tangents that it is very hard to follow at times. But mostly, it is quite boring.

There are better histories of Utah, the Mountain Men, the Padres, the Mormons, etc., but if what you desire is a quick, very superficial overview of Utah's early history, then you will find this work useful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover
As someone interested in that region of our country, I found this book compelling . . . and it gave me a new understanding of the Mormons' struggle to find their homeland. I would recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in Mormons or in that area of that country. The story is page-turning, not a dry history at all.
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By ffhiker on September 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
I found this book a fascinating read. In 300+ pages the author covers the basics of the history of the Great Basin. In some of his descriptions of the area, I was brought back to my visits to that area. I learned a lot about the history and the geology of that area that is sandwiched between the Sierra Nevadas and the Wasatch Mountains. Well worth your time to read it.
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Format: Paperback
Other reviews say that the book goes in too many tangents, but that's why I enjoyed it so much. Instead of a dry history, Durham makes the work come alive with stories of the people in the area. I'm buying it for my dad to enjoy as much as I did.
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By jm on March 20, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My copy of the book, Desert Between the Mountains, is missing 40 pages and I have have been unable to contact the seller.
My frustrations with the seller and Amazon to date over my incomplete book means one star is still one star too many
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