Emerald Mile

With The Emerald Mile, author Kevin Fedarko puts the reader on the dories, in the river, and behind the controls of the Glen Canyon Dam, distinguishing this novel from other works of adventure writing. Fedarko uses more than literary skills to make the people, river, and the boats jump off the page. Rather, he involves his intimate knowledge of the Grand Canyon gained from years spent studying it, including its stories and the people who are drawn to it—just like he was.

How did he gain this insight? With no prior paddling experience, Fedarko apprenticed with a guiding company, where he specialized in paddling the “groover,” better known as the toilet and all the generated sewage, on a boat named the Jackass used for the company’s guided parties. On these trips, Fedarko became familiar with the story of The Emerald Mile and its legendary speed run through the Grand Canyon.

For four years, Fedarko paddled the Jackass, learning the nuances of the Grand Canyon and familiarizing himself with its legends. For six years following his river apprenticeship, Fedarko researched, interviewed, compiled, and wrote The Emerald Mile. When the book was finally ready for distribution, however, his publisher became involved in a dispute with the U.S.’s largest bookstore chain, which caused them to not carry his work and impacted the marketing plan and budget to announce its release.

Not to be deterred, Fedarko used the same determination for four more years. If the country’s biggest bookseller wasn’t going to carry his book, Fedarko would just have to focus on the small, independent bookstores, and without a budget, he’d have to do it from his truck. For nearly a year, Fedarko spent his time driving from bookstore to bookstore, trying to sell his book and sleeping in his truck.

Speaking to whomever would listen, Kevin would sometimes draw full houses and, at the lowest times, see crowds of only a bookshop owner, her two cats, and a friend. But, something was happening. People loved the book, and those he met with and spoke to were recommending it. Even better, it was actually selling. As Kevin spoke, his passion for the river, and the incredible tale of the speed run down the Grand Canyon resonated with people.

There are several reasons to read The Emerald Mile: It won a National Outdoor Book Award, it’s an exciting look at the Grand Canyon, it features wild characters, and its storyline moves as fast as the river itself. However, behind the story, the author had something to say and truly believed in it—and he took the mentality he learned on the river and used it to share the tale that had enraptured him nearly a decade before.