Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Dinosaur Hunter by Homer Hickam

Title: The Dinosaur Hunter
Author: Homer Hickam
ISBN: 9780312383787
Publisher: Thomas Dunne, 2010
Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Western
Rating: C
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: Old Bill Coulter used to say a quiet day in Fillmore County is a temptation to God and sure enough, come sundown after a day of blue skies and fair winds, distant pulses of lightning began to play along the horizon, heralding a big storm on its way.

Life on a Montana ranch is not for the faint-hearted, but some people seem to enjoy it. One of them happens to be retired homicide detective Mike Wire who left Hollywood to spend his days helping run the Square C and secretly love its owner, Jeanette Coulter.

Montana isn't just about ranching; however, the Square C lies in the midst of some of the richest areas of dinosaur fossils in the world. When a paleontologist and his assistants show their permits allowing them to search for fossils on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, Mike has a feeling that they're bringing trouble with them-- and he's right. Dinosaur bones can mean a fortune to whomever finds them first, and it's not long before the buzzards start circling.

I originally chose this book to read because it was supposedly a mystery, but the further I read, the less like a mystery it became. When the mystery arrived with the first murder about two-thirds of the way through the book, the Russian mob angle was a bit too far-fetched for me. Although the solution entailed a humorous section with a group of local survivalists that made me laugh, that, too, was a bit too much for me to swallow.

Mike Wire, the main character, also has his share of problems. (Must be that Hollywood influence still clogging a few of his brain cells....) His reasons for being a cowboy-- and a vegetarian one at that-- are good ones, but he has two annoying characteristics. One, he certainly does fall in love with a new woman quickly for a man who's been pining away for his boss lo, these many years. Two, this book is written from his point of view, his voice-- and Mike Wire is constantly telling us that he's done one thing when he's really told us that he wanted to do. He then has to backtrack and tell us what actually happened. The first couple of times he does this, it's a bit confusing. The next couple of times, it's amusing. From then on it's just plain annoying.

If I forget all about expecting this book to be a mystery and concentrate on its true strengths, I am left with a book that I still enjoyed quite a bit. Like the books of Peter Bowen, The Dinosaur Hunter is a paen to the wild and rugged landscape of Montana and the fiercely independent souls who live there. It also takes the reader on several digs for dinosaur bones. These are the truly fascinating passages in the book and will have anyone who's interested in the subject glued to the page.

If you're willing to ignore the main character's bad habits and forget about the mystery and concentrate on the dinosaurs, you're in for an enjoyable read.

[A note about reading this book that has everything to do with its previous owner and nothing to do with the story. I received this book through Paperback Swap. One afternoon I realized that, as I was reading, I was scratching my itchy, runny nose. I happened to look down and see that the top of my navy blue swimsuit was literally covered with white cat hair. From the amount of cat hair that came out from between this book's pages, I'd swear there was a bald Persian winding around someone's ankles out there.

People complain about receiving books that smell of cigarette smoke and contain food stains, but for some reason, my receipt of a book filled with cat hair bothers me more than the previous two offenses!]


  1. Homer Hickam's Rocket Boys is one of my all time favorite books. I've enjoyed his other Coalwood books, but the rest of his books have just been okay for me.

  2. Sounds to me like Hickam couldn't decide what kind of story this is so it went all over the place. Too bad.

  3. Kathy-- I'd heard that some of his other books were wonderful. I'll have to look up some of his other titles.

    Barbara-- It almost seems as though he didn't think the dinosaurs could carry the story all on their own.

  4. Well... I liked it and so did a lot of other folks. But Mike Wire's story isn't for everyone, especially those who want another Rocket Boys. One classic per author is all they typically allow, unfortunately.

  5. Homer-- As far as I'm concerned, you're allowed an entire airplane hanger's worth of classics, but even then they're not always going to be for everyone. As far as this book is concerned, you had me wanting to book a flight to Montana so I could work on a dig. Stuff like that fascinates me!

  6. Try my Sky of Stone. Although a memoir, I think you'll like the mystery embedded within it. I'm not known as a mystery writer but I do love to read them. I also like to switch up genres (which publishers hate). Red Helmet, for instance, is a romantic novel. Crater, my next novel, is science fiction (which I don't read but love a challenge). And, of course, the Josh Thurlow series which are action/adventure. Ultimately, all my books are about people and the families they live within, whether they're related to the folks in them or in, say, a military unit. People interest me more than anything else and I think it's why most readers read, to learn about different people in different situations. The Dinosaur Hunter I wrote mostly because I wanted to bring alive to my readers the marvelous ranch people of eastern Montana I met when I went there to hunt the wily dinosaurs. It's really more of a modern western than a classically constructed mystery story so mystery lovers might be disappointed. I know I am a hard writer to peg. I get that.

  7. Homer-- Thanks so much for the suggestions. I now have new post-its hanging from my monitor!

    You did bring the people and the land of Montana to life. As I read, I was reminded of the way Peter Bowen also brought Montana's landscapes and people to life for me. Bowen is one of my favorite authors, so I hope I don't offend you with the comparison.


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