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‘Canyonlands Carnage’ a tense, dangerous outing

(Courtesy of Maria’s Bookshop)
Durango author Scott Graham will discuss book Thursday

Local Scott Graham, an award winning National Outdoor Book author, has just released his seventh National Park mystery, “Canyonlands Carnage.” In this tense and dangerous outing, Chuck Bender and his brother-in-law, Clarence, face the whitewater rapids of the Green and Colorado rivers and the remote barren land of Utah’s red rocks.

It is the later days of May when Chuck, owner of Bender Archaeology, agrees to help a friend who is co-leading an expedition down the rivers. Chuck Coswell and Ralph Hycum have put together a group of diverse leaders of water policy, environmentalists and representatives from industry in hopes of building consensus on possible changes in water usage in the Southwest.

The two-week planned trip will expose the group to the river basin and its ecosystem, which is at once mighty and fragile. Chuck is the expedition’s naturalist who is supposed to give talks after each day’s lunch and dinner about the geology, flora and fauna, anthropology and archaeology of the basin.

The leaders are trying to address many issues that are emerging because of climate change and drought, which is causing water scarcity in the Southwest. The reality is the future has arrived and water has become a hot commodity. The water is needed for residents, agriculture, industry and recreation.

If you go

What: Maria’s Bookshop presents an author presentation and book-signing with Scott Graham, discussing his new book, “Canyonlands Carnage.”

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Secret Garden at Rochester Hotel, 726 East Second Ave.

More information: Visit https://bit.ly/38Dn1mh.

Wayne and Ralph are hoping that being immersed in the world of the basin without distractions (no phones or computers work in the remote area) that the industry representatives will be open to compromise. Because of deep pockets, some companies have already started to buy up water rights. This is a scary proposition that could affect the health of the basin’s delicate ecosystem and impact the lives of all those living in the Southwest.

The trip is a return to the adventures of Chuck’s younger, single days when he rock climbed and ran rivers with the best of them. A little over five years ago, the confirmed 40-plus bachelor married Clarence’s older sister, Janelle. He also became stepdad to her two daughters, Carmelita, 17 and Rosie, 13. This has added a new, admittedly noisier level to his life, one that he feels is far richer. Recently, Janelle started working full time as a paramedic with Durango Fire and Rescue, which has Chuck taking on even more parenting. A trip on the river sounds like a little fun break, like the old days.

Chuck’s enjoyment is sadly short lived when one of the leaders suddenly dies. As unforeseen events unfold, Clarence and Chuck believe someone is trying to sabotage the lofty ideals of the expedition. As an added distraction, Janelle and the girls show up, which divides Chuck’s attention from the growing dangers in the basin. Graham’s description of the girls’ arrival through the rugged roads and cliffs of the park, are terrifying and rival the driving skills of most backcountry experts.

Graham has packed his latest endeavor with an amazing amount of glorious description of the rugged landscape of America’s most remote national park. The history of the Colorado Basin is expertly woven into the story’s action. Dangerous and mysterious events build as even Chuck’s family is threatened by unknown forces. Graham’s knowledge of whitewater rafting and the hard work of running the rivers is detailed and intimate, bringing readers along for the tumultuous ride that is “Canyonlands Carnage.”

This is one of Graham’s best. Be sure to come and listen to Graham’s presentation and book-signing Thursday at the Rochester Hotel’s Secret Garden.

Leslie Doran is a retired teacher, freelance writer and former New Mexican who claims Durango as her forever home.