“The Stranger in the Woods” coming to Breckenrige | SummitDaily.com

“The Stranger in the Woods” coming to Breckenrige

Right now No. 11 on the New York Times Best Sellers nonfiction list, "The Stranger in the Woods" by Michael Finkel explores the nature of a man who for 27 years survived completely alone as a chameleon in Maine's rugged wilderness.

The book, released earlier this month, seeks to answer the overarching question, "Why?" and details the story of Christopher Thomas Knight based on an extensive series of in-person interviews with the man known as "the North Pond Hermit" and on the courtroom proceedings that arose after his capture for burglarizing nearby camps, including one for disabled children.

"I looked for more than a decade for just the right story," Finkel said of his choosing to write this book. "It took me 10 years to come across a story so rich, but I have to tell you, there's a little melancholy now that it's finished because I don't know if I'll ever come across anything this incredible again."

The new book is getting rave reviews, and it also comes with a Summit County connection, as the author's father lives in Breckenridge and the writer will be appearing here at 7 p.m. Sunday at Colorado Mountain College in the auditorium named in honor of his parents, Eileen and Paul Finkel.

This is Michael Finkel's second book. The first, "True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa," was made into a major motion picture starring James Franco as Christian Longo, the Oregon man who murdered his wife and three children and later used Finkel's identity while on the lam, while actor Jonah Hill plays the role of Finkel.

With that novel, Finkel had recently been fired from his job at the New York Times after he combined the interviews of multiple children and presented them as the story of one in a piece he was doing about child slavery.

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Finkel said that he could have bought a new car with the money he spent to hire two fact-checkers from GQ Magazine to comb through his newest piece and make sure there were no inaccuracies to keep it beyond reproach.

"This is not fake news," he said, explaining that it's a true story of a man who sparks many different reactions in many different people.

Reviewed by a number of media outlets, "The Stranger in the Woods" is often compared to Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild," another book that follows the journey of a young man, Chris McCandless, who gives up modern comforts to live off the land. Over the phone, Finkel said that, while he understands that comparison, he isn't the one making it.

"Of course, I read 'Into the Wild' — it's a great book," Finkel said while pointing out some differences between McCandless, who died after one year in the wilderness, and Knight, who came out 27 years later "strong as an ox."

"The interesting part may be the motivation," Finkel said of the oft-made association between the two. "It seems like an obvious comparison, but reading everything about Chris McCandless, he seems like a very personable and outgoing guy who wanted to go on an adventure, and Chris Knight was never anything like that.

"The thing that maybe makes it similar is people's reaction to the two," Finkle continued. "When I read about people's reaction to Chris McCandless, some people are like, 'Yeah, man. I would totally love to do that. I totally get it.' And other people are like, 'What an idiot, what a selfish guy, what a stupid guy.' In that respect, the reactions are almost identical, and it says more about who we are than who those guys are on some level."

The publisher, Knopf, released "The Stranger in the Woods" on March 7. It is for sale at The Next Page Books & Nosh, 409 Main St., Frisco, and will be available at Sunday's presentation.

Finkel said that during his book presentations, he doesn't read from his work.

"I never read at readings," he said. "I do not stick my nose in a book. If you're going to schlep all the way to come out to see me, you're going to get something that's not in the book."

This means, Finkel said, he will produce police photos of Knight's campsite, all the ways Knight looked while in the woods and, among other things, an "amazing" video of the game warden who arrested Knight.

"This guy got to walk step for step behind Chris Knight, and you have got to see this main game warden describe what that was like," Finkel said. "That's what you're going to see (Sunday), and oh, a little show and tell. I won't even say what it is, just a little show and tell."

Finkel also has Colorado appearances today at the Tattered Book Cover in Denver and Saturday at the Boulder Book Store in Boulder. Orgainziers for his presentation at CMC-Breckenridge are expecting a large turnout and request that people RSVP for the free presenation by calling Heidi Kunzek at 970-453-6757, ext. 2614 or emailing her at hkunzek@coloradomtn.edu

If You Go

What: CMC Speaker Series featuring “The Stranger in the Woods” by Michael Finkel

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Paul and Eileen Finkel Auditorium at Colorado Mountain College, 107 Denison Placer Road, Breckenridge

Info: This Speaker Series event is free and will be followed by a book signing. Organizers are expecting a large turnout and people are asked to RSVP to Heidi Kunzek at 970-453-6757, ext. 2614 or via email with hkunzek@coloradomtn.edu.