Hella Nation: Looking for Happy Meals in Kandahar, Rocking the Side Pipe, Wingnut's War Against the GAP, and Other Adventures with the Totally Lost Tribes of America

Evan Wright began his journalism career as an editor at Hustler magazine, and the amiable con man sensibility he developed in Porn Valley has served him well as an immersion journalist specializing in outsider culture. In 2003, he embedded with a Marine Reconnaissance battalion in Iraq for Rolling Stone, and his first book, Generation Kill, detailed his time there. Wright has returned with Hella Nation, a collection of his most outlandish adventures from 1997 to 2007, including an entrée into the Church of Jesus Christ Christian Aryan Nation compound in Idaho, a crime spree with the violent, tree-sitting anarchists of the West Coast environmental movement, and one deadly investigation of a human growth hormone con operation in Arizona. Wright's piece on Pat Dollard, however, manages somehow to eclipse the rest of the magnificent coverage in the book. Once a smarmy, coke-snorting Hollywood agent, Dollard became frustrated with what he considered the leftist coverage of the Iraq war, so he hopped a flight to Fallujah, embedded with a platoon, and returned with over 300 hours of film. Wright follows the drug-addled documentarian's efforts to sell his movie, Young Americans (often stalled by alcohol and amphetamine benders) -- the resulting Vanity Fair piece became the longest profile of a single person in the magazine's history. Wright's style owes a hat tip to Hunter S. Thompson, but he has one up on the bleary-eyed King of Gonzo. Instead of headlining his own white-knuckle exploits, Wright uses his extraordinary insider access to expose the meat and marrow of the nation's underbelly.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).