‘Finding Abbey- The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave’

  • ‘Finding Abbey- The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave’
    ‘Finding Abbey- The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave’

Title: “Finding Abbey- The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave”

Author: Sean Prentiss

Paperback: 5.5- by 8- inches, 240 pages

ISBN: 978-0-8263-5591-1

Published: May 2015

Publisher: University of New Mexico Press, unmpress.com

Author Sean Prentiss first learned about Edward Abbey in 1994 during his senior year in college. And Prentiss was hooked.

Abbey, 1927-89, is an American literary icon and best known as an environmental writer. His works include 14 nonfiction books, nine books of fiction, one of poetry, and three anthologies in addition to two magazine “Letters,” which were published posthumously in 2006.

“You could either join him or hate him for his extreme stances on wilderness, immigration, population control, and monkey wrenching,” explained the author in the Prologue.

He became haunted by the mysteries surrounding Abbey’s final resting place. Sometime during the late 1990s Prentiss and his best friend, Haus, began their search to locate Abbey’s unmarked grave.

Edward spent much of his life in the Southwest and four friends buried his body in an unmarked grave outside of Tucson, Arizona in 1989.

Prentiss, a native Pennsylvanian, began his search there since Abbey was born in Indiana, Penn. He quickly located the family plot. The search brought the two friends to Home, Penn., where a roadside sign honors Abbey. It includes; “Author and defender of the wilderness, most famous for his two books, Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang.”

Prentiss’ lucid prose describes his conversations with some of the people who had spent time with Abbey during the four decades environmental advocate roamed wilderness areas in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

“I realize[d] the search for Abbey’s grave might be a million times harder than I imagined,” wrote the author after chatting with a Colorado wildlife biologist.

Prentiss enjoys his lengthy interviews with Abbey’s inner group, which includes David Petersen, Jack Loeffler, Kent Sleight, and Doug Peacock. These close friends are the basis of the main characters in several books, especially The Monkey Wrench Gang. Prentiss realized that environmentalist has a core group that still protects Abbey’s legacy and continues to honor his memory.

“Sean Prentiss’ quest to find Abbey is a literary journey, full of adventure and self-examination, worthy of old Ed himself,” said Peacock about this book.

“Curiously, Finding Abbey is also one of the best biographies about Edward Abbey ever written.”

(Peacock wrote Grizzly Years and Walking It Off; he co-authored The Essential Grizzly with his wife Andre. The couple founded the Round River Conservation Studies in 1991 and he was named as a Guggenheim fellow in 2007.)

“Our search successful, our travels just about done, our journey finished here in this faraway desert,” wrote the author in his Epilogue.

“All that remains is to return to the places where we live those other lives.”

Prentiss’ extensive research includes almost four pages of reference materials that were published from 1976 through 2010.

Finding Abbey received the 2016 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Biography, Other; the book won the 2016 Utah Book Award for Nonfiction; and it received the 2015 National Outdoor Book Award for History/Biography.

Sean Prentiss and his wife Sarah live on a small lake in northern Vermont. He teaches creative writing at Norwich University, a private university in Northfield, Vermont. He serves as co-editor of The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: An Anthology of Explorations in Creative Nonfiction.

Contact the UNM Press publicist at ahumme@unm.edu for more information.