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Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone Hardcover – March 27, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“George Black has written a masterful and riveting history of the exploration of Yellowstone. Empire of Shadows will forever change our understanding and conception of this sacred American place.” ―David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

“In this work of meticulous scholarship harnessed to fine story-telling, George Black rediscovers the history and lore of one of the planet's most magnificent landscapes. Here is Yellowstone in all its untouristed grandeur--we can almost smell the musk of buffalo herds and the glurp of the hot springs. Read Empire of the Shadows, and you'll never think of our first--in many ways our greatest--national park in the same way again.” ―Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder

“A well-researched and dynamically written study of the hidden history of greed and idealism, beauty and violence, which led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park.” ―Richard Slotkin, author of Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in 20th Century America and Professor Emeritus of American Studies, Wesleyan University

“An engrossing chronicle of the vast sweep of western American history that, after six decades, finally closed in on our first national park.” ―Robert M. Utley, Former Chief Historian of the National Park Service and author of sixteen books on western American history

About the Author

GEORGE BLACK is the author of The Trout Pool Paradox and Casting a Spell. He is the executive editor of OnEarth magazine, a publication of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He lives in New York.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312383193
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312383190
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Like millions of other Americans, I took my kids to see the marvels of Yellowstone National Park. Since then I've read my share of Stephen Ambrose, Hampton Sides, and other fine writers of Western history. This book definitely belongs with the best of the genre. Black introduces us to the American myth of Yellowstone, starting with Lewis and Clark, and takes us through an epic saga of its exploration, conquest -- and marketing. The book weaves startling stories around familiar names, ranging from Jim Bridger to Abe Lincoln. It is particularly good at describing how the architects of the American West could arrive with noble goals (building a new society) that could lead to tragedy (murder and mayhem. Anyone who loved "Deadwood" will see reflections of the characters here -- including the spectacular facial hair.
This book includes compelling nuanced descriptions of the violence perpetrated by all sides -- explorers, settlers, Native Americans, who conducted horrific campaigns against each other. It demonstrates that there were many perpetrators, countless victims, and few true diplomats. The illustrations are incredible (and not for the faint of heart). This is not the genteel West of "Gunsmoke"; this is a story that makes you think about epic glories of the American landscape, the brutality of counter-insurgency warfare, and the sanitization of our high school history books. As usual, the real history, in all its tragic grandeur, is worth a thousand postcards.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend, hoping to learn a little more about Yellowstone's history and how it has come to where it is today. My expectations were high, but far exceeded by the reality. This is an excellent book - who knew that the history of Yellowstone traces right back to Lewis and Clark, and that it was launched by the loftiest of ideals but marred by the basest of actions, both intended and unintended. The tracing of act and counter-act, settlers versus Native Indians, politicians and dreamers, brutal campaigns of suppression and uprisings, set against the aching beautiful and awe-inspiring grandeur of Yellowstone, is remarkable. This is an excellent, gripping, and surprising account of the making of an American icon. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "The Trout Pool Paradox" George Black gave us a vivid picture of western Connecticut, an area I knew little about. In Empire of Shadows he did the same for most of the nineteenth century in the four-state area Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and a bit of Utah, which I only thought I knew about.

Billed as "The Epic Story of Yellowstone" the emphasis is on "Epic" as Mr. Black paints a broad picture of the relationships between the unique and remote place that became our greatest park and the many groups and characters that passed through the surrounding frontier for decades. These explorers, traders, soldiers, Mountain Men, Mormons and miners were familiar with the fantastical rumors of that remote volcanic cauldron but for years passed them off, logically, as just that, fantastical, until finally even the wildest descriptions were confirmed.

This extremely well researched and documented book relates stories of many of those characters, Langford, Father De Smet, Bridger, Lt. Doane and my favorites, John Colter and Joe Meeks among dozens more. Fortunately, George Black included stories of exploits that cannot be verified but remain some of greatest tales of the west. He carefully characterizes them as the folklore that they are, speculates on their veracity and includes them for our enjoyment. Importantly, the tragic and complicated story of the Native Americans who surrounded Yellowstone received Black's most pointed scrutiny. And his extensive use of primary sources, diaries, letters, military records and journals adds important personal accounts.

Mr. Black describes himself as a foreign-born New Yorker almost apologizing for writing of this truly American treasure.
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Format: Hardcover
Anyone who's ever marveled at the wonders of the American Serengetti--Yellowstone --will love George Black's history of the creation of our great national park. Black is a gorgeous writer/historian/reporter.

Fusing natural history with political history, he brings the past into the present and makes it come alive, not an easy trick. George Black's Yellowstone is not Disneyesque; it is a story of blood, conquest, exploration and primal beauty.

But then George Black has a special knack for nature writing. He's the only person alive who can make books about fly-casting and trout fishing interesting (at least to me.) Perhaps his day job as the editor of the National Resources Defense Council's excellent glossy magazine, "On Earth," gives him an edge in this type of difficult writing, but Black is a master.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I visited Yellowstone last year for the first time and was hooked! As gorgeous and unique as the area is, I wanted to learn more about how it came to be a National Park. I watched the Ken Burns series on PBS, and that was helpful - but I wanted even more information. This book is a well-written, comprehensive and realistic look at the people, and political and economic factors - pro and con - that made it what it is today. I recommend it for anyone who wants to learn about the human forces that served to shape how the forces of nature are preserved here!
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