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Hell Creek, Montana: America's Key to the Prehistoric Past Hardcover – July 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Readers may be confused by the title of this book by paleontologist Dingus (The Mistaken Extinction), which doesn't do justice to his story: an occasionally lyrical and meditative history of Montana's Badlands, a desolate region that he has clearly come to love during his paleontological expeditions. The rugged Badlands of east-central Montana stretch for more than 100 miles along the south bank of the Missouri River. The area hasn't always been a giant's playground of buttes and coulees and inhospitable ravines. Seventy million years ago T. rex chased its prey through a luxuriant floodplain that covered the area. The first skeletal T. rex remains were discovered here, and the most complete specimen before the $7 million Sue was found on a local ranch by an amateur bone hunter in the 1960s. Meriwether Clark became the first fossil hunter of the American West when he picked up a dinosaur bone a little farther upriver on the Corps of Discovery's journey to the Pacific. The residents of the Badlands town of Jordan have seen their share of excitement more recently: in 1996 right-wing extremists called the Freemen engaged the FBI in a standoff that attracted national media attention. Given its wide range, this book should attract readers of history and lovers of the American West in addition to dinosaur junkies. 15 b&w photos.
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“Dingus brilliantly shows that an isolated, rural town surrounded by a lonely piece of America can yield as deep and evocative a history as any terrain on earth. Hell Creek... is heavenly reading!”
- Michael Novacek, Senior Vice President and Provost of Science, American Museum of Natural History

"Lowell Dingus tells the saga of the discovery of the first specimen ever found of Tyrannosaurus rex, probably the world's most famous fossil. But he brings a whole lot more to the story, as no other place captures the essence of the history of the American West better than Hell Creek, Montana. A great read about a fantastic piece of American real estate!"
- Dr. Niles Eldredge, Curator of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History

"There are lots of dinosaur books, yet few of these place the great discoveries in a historical context. Here Lowell Dingus tells us the story of the events that led to some of the great dinosaur discoveries of all time. Interwoven with these stories is a compelling, introspective personal narrative of how happenings in this remote part of Montana have and continue to be a big part of the American scene."
--Dr. Mark A. Norell, Chairman and Curator, Department of Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (July 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312313934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312313937
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,334,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By N. Garner on June 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A third of the book is about dinosaur hunting in the Hell Creek area of Mt; the rest is a paleontologist's take on Lewis & Clark, Custer's last stand, the Montana Freemen, and the future of the area. The most interesting parts were the chapters about Harley Garbani, a fossil-hunter who dug up multiple T. rex's in the area and a personal friend of the author, and the K-T extinction controversy, in which Dingus participated. Dingus clearly loves the area, but if your interest is the dinosaurs of Montana, this book is probably not for you. Also, Dingus has covered the K-T extinction in a separate book.

Not helping is that the language is unnecessarily complex. The text is studded with five dollar words, and I don't mean technical ones. Actually, more technical terms would have been welcome.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Akcloudwoman VINE VOICE on December 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good history (geological and human) of the area. An easy, non-scientific read for anyone who wants to know more about where some of the greatest dinosaur finds have been made.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I am a distant relative of Harley Garbani; My Italian-Swiss immigrant grandfather had a dry-land ranch in the San Jacinto Valley. Over the years, I had seen Harley's name on exhibits at the LA County Museum and heard proud, family stories of his collecting in the deserts of California and Baja California. At the time of his death, I also noticed his obituary appeared in newspapers around the world. I, therefore, wanted to know about him. When I learned of this book, I ordered it. (On the other side of my family, my anscestors arrived in Montana in the 1850s.)

It is amazing how much occured in this isolated area over time. I found the book an entertaining, quick read.

(There is also a film, "The Missouri Breaks," a 1976 American western starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson set in this area that a critical and commercial failure.)
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