Mountain Gazette editor M. John Fayhee releases two books, reads at Moose Jaw Saturday
When news that M. John Fayhee is rolling back into Frisco hits the streets, excitement among old-school ski bums, literary aficionados, other bearded and grizzled sorts, as well as a younger generation of mountain folk starts to build. Grown men become giddy and women swoon at the chance to catch some insight or incidental tidbit from Fayhee of years gone by or how to live a more righteous mountain existence.The last time Fayhee read in town – a heartwarming speech to consummate the release of the Summit Daily’s Mark Fox’s photography book last November – many were there to get a glimpse, and perhaps a word with, the legendary editor of the Mountain Gazette, a now 40-year-old publication that speaks to the wanderings and values of a mountain culture that many still cling to and try to preserve. It’s a culture of outdoorsiness that existed and thrived before Wildernest, before Bluetooth compatibility and before Vail Resorts. Those values and tales are also preserved through Fayhee’s books, two more of which are being introduced to the public Saturday with a release party and reading taking place in Frisco at the Moose Jaw Food & Spirits. And so it will be, when Fayhee once again will rest his behind on a bar stool at the Jaw, and regale the crowds with a reading of selections from both of his new books, along with the simultaneous celebration of 40 magnanimous years for the Mountain Gazette.The event begins at 6:30 p.m., with both books – “Smoke Signals: Wayward Journeys Through the Old Heart of the New West” (Raven’s Eye Press) and “The Colorado Mountain Companion: A Potpourri of Useful Miscellany from the Highest Parts of the Highest State” (WestWinds Press) – available for sale and signing. The reading, not to exceed an hour in length and co-sponsored by The Next Page Bookstore, (where both books are also available for sale) will begin sometime before the evening gets too late, and book signing will continue afterward until the author is no longer willing or able. Local musician Arnie J. Green will precede and follow the reading. Sources indicate that patrons who purchase a book will be eligible to receive a free draught of beer. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the Jaw and I really like doing readings in bars,” Fayhee said. “In ‘Smoke Signals’ there’s a bar referenced many times, the Sluice Box Saloon, which is a quasi-fictitious amalgam bar based upon numerous watering holes from my past. You would not be wrong to infer there’s more than a bit of the Jaw in there.”Having two book signings at the same event and celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication he’s edited for 12 years was strictly coincidental. “It’ll definitely be a bit weird unveiling two new books at once,” said Fayhee, who lived in Summit County for almost 20 years. “I certainly did not plan to have two books coming out literally the same week.” According to the author, “The Colorado Mountain Companion,” which references Summit County and its various towns and resorts more than 50 times throughout, is the crown jewel among his 10 previously published books. “I worked on this book for four years,” Fayhee said. “It is unlike any other book I’ve ever done, in that it is not simply a long-winded recollection of experiences. Rather, it was the culmination of a very focused research effort. Its genesis was two-fold: First, about 10 years ago, shortly after yet another barroom argument regarding what the highest town is, I realized how little some residents of the Colorado mountains actually knew about the place they live. Stuff like, what’s the highest paved road and what’s the coldest town.”According to Fayhee, the research process was painstaking, given his personality type and leanings toward loquaciousness, but very rewarding. “Second, I became familiar with the original encyclopedias, which first appeared in England in the early 1700s,” Fayhee said. “At that time, encyclopedias were not the systematized, alphabetized volumes we now recognize. They were, rather, thematic compilations of whatever subjects were of interest to the writer. That’s what ‘The Colorado Mountain Companion’ is – a compilation of the things that interest me personally about the High Country.”Mountain Gazette fans will be anxious to pick up the latest rendition of “Smoke Signals” as well, which contains extended and distended versions of many of the stories Gazette readers have enjoyed over the last dozen years. “When I first wrote these stories, they were all much, much longer than could ever fit into the Gazette,” Fayhee said. “The 22 chapters included in this book are painstaking (and I mean this s#@% took a very long time) reconciliations between the original versions and the edited versions that we printed in the MG. Thus, there’s lots of new material that readers have not seen, and a lot of material they maybe have seen that is worded differently.” “Smoke Signals” takes its name from the author’s popular monthly column in the Mountain Gazette, which Fayhee helped resurrect and has been editing since 2000. From illegally entering rural China with a backpack full of pot, to paddling crocodile-infested waters in a leaky Zodiac in the Dominican Republic, to crash-landing a hot-air balloon in the remotest area of Appalachia, “Smoke Signals” juxtaposes highly improbable misadventures with tender tales – losing a beloved dog, the scars that define people of the High Country and friendships forged in the most remote parts of the American West.Coinciding with the MG’s 40th anniversary, townsfolk will be treated to appearances by contributors from all over the country, as the “Gazette tribe” descends on Frisco for its first-ever official gathering and several days of recreation and recollection. “Every writer’s life experiences affect and give perspective to his or her writings. Imagination is overlaid upon experiences. Those experiences have given me perspective,” Fayhee said. “I guess it’s now a question about what I have done with that perspective.”Fayhee worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for 15 years, was the first reporter hired by the Summit Daily News when the paper was started in 1989 and was a long-time contributing editor at Backpacker magazine. His travels have taken him to 46 states and five continents. Fayhee has hiked the Appalachian, Colorado and Arizona trails and the Colorado section of the Continental Divide Trail, and he has stood atop the summits of 27 of Colorado’s Fourteeners. Along with close friend and Summit Daily photographer Mark Fox, he earned his Tae Kwon Do black belt in 1995.Fayhee’s previous books include “Mexico’s Copper Canyon Country,” “Up At Altitude: A Celebration of Life in the High Country,” “A Colorado Winter” and “Bottoms Up.”After 24 years living in the High Country, Fayhee moved back to his old stomping grounds in southwest New Mexico, where he currently lives with his wife Gay, dog Casey and Tucker the cat.Info: http://www.mjohnfayhee.com
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