Fire Season, follows the life of Philip Connors, who swaps his job as an editor at the Wall Street Journal to become a fire lookout in the wilds of New Mexico. For nearly a decade, he has spent half of each year in a small room at the top of a tower, on top of a mountain, alone in millions of acres of remote American wilderness.
Over the past century 90 per cent of lookout towers have been decommissioned. Fire Season is a beautiful account of one man’s time alone in the woods, and an ode to a dying art.
His journey into the wilderness begins in April when he gives up his seasonal work as a barman in “the trenches of the wine and spirits industry, hustling for tips and swapping quips with the tipsy”. A five-and-a-half-mile hike, with 50lb of supplies on his back, he heads out to the Apache Peak lookout post that will be his home for the summer.
Fire Season is driven by revealing vignettes and has a refreshingly candid feel to it. This is perhaps best demonstrated by Connors’s reaction to the immensity of the endless wilderness before him: “On this, my first night back in the tower, I find myself hopping around like some juiced-up Beat poet, but instead of shouting Zen poetry and gentle nonsense I start hollering profanities, turning this way and that, trying to take it all in.”
The novel manages to capture the wonder and grandeur of this most unusual job and place. It evokes both the eerie pleasure of solitude and the majesty, might and beauty of untamed fire at its wildest. Not only is it a remarkable memoir that is at once an homage to the beauty of nature, the blessings of solitude, and the freedom of the independent spirit it also is about embracing a time when we were closer to the physicality of the world before the onslaught of the digital age.
To celebrate, Pan Macmillan, the publishers of Fire Season, took their cover designer Jonathan Pelham to the wonderful Print Club in Dalston to screen print the cover. Jonathan, whose speciality is digital graphic design was unfamiliar with the screen printing process until now:
‘The poster has a completely different feel from the book cover. Initially I was concerned that the silk screening process had taken away the subtleties of the photograph that I’d spent hours tweaking in Photoshop. But this soon gave way to a realisation that the work had in fact gained an added dimension. I began to appreciate the flaws because they imbued the prints with a quiet, honest, human quality, which chimes perfectly with the tone of the book’
The Fire Season is available now at your favourite book store.
Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout
By Philip Connors
288pp, Macmillan, £8.99