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Fan remembers Peter Matthiessen's works and legacy (Photos)

Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen, Photo: Getty Images for Focus Features

On April 7, 2014, fan Alton Ford shared memories about deceased author Peter Matthiessen. The award-winning author, 86, passed away from complications related to leukemia that he had been diagnosed with in 2012. He died on Saturday, April 5, 2014.

In addition, Matthiessen was a novelist, naturalist, and wilderness writer, and he was the co-founder of the literary magazine "The Paris Review."

Alton Ford, who resides in Fort Myers, Fla., had much to share about his and his family's memories when it came to Peter Matthiessen.

Alton, have you read any of Peter Matthiessen's works?

"Yes, I have several of his books, and I have read them more than once. I also have read works by other authors who were his friends. They were and are Totch Brown (deceased) and Randy Wayne White."

Do you have a favorite Matthiessen novel?

"Yes, I like 'Lost Man's River.' I like anything about nature and the wilderness, so his writing stirs many of my own memories. My wife was part of a re-enactment that was inspired by one of his books 'Killing Mister Watson.' So I guess that book might be my favorite!"

Did you meet the author?

"Yes, I did. Our youngest daughter Leah and myself met him at least once in Chokoloskee. It was during a re-enactment of his book 'Killing Mister Watson.' My wife played Mrs. Watson. He was very nice, down to earth. I remember him being very tall, and his 90 year old dad was with him. They sat up front at the play.

My wife was a little nervous knowing he was there, but everything went well. I have photographs of the event, including some of him, somewhere. The play was held outside on the water at the back of the Smallwood Store in the Everglades. Even boats pulled up to watch!"

Thank you Alton Ford for sharing with us. As a fan I'm sure you, and others, send condolences to Peter Matthiessen's family and friends.

A partial list of Peter Matthiessen's fiction includes "Race Rock," "At Play in the Fields of the Lord," "Far Tortuga," "The Watson Trilogy," "Killing Mister Watson," "Lost Man's River"...

A partial list of Peter Matthiesssen's nonfiction includes "The Snow Leopard," "African Silences," "Tigers in the Snow," "End of the Earth: Voyage to Antaractica"...

Matthiessen's death came three days before the publication of his final novel, "In Paradise" on April 8, 2014.

Peter Matthiessen Speaking
Peter Matthiessen Speaking Photo: Wiki

Peter Matthiessen Speaking

In 1959, Mathiessen published the first edition of Wildlife in America, a history of the extinction and endangerment of animal and bird species as a consequence of human settlement, throughout North American history, and of the human effort to protect endangered species.

In 1965, Matthiessen published At Play in the Fields of the Lord, a novel about a group of American missionaries and their encounter with a South American indigenous tribe. The book was adapted into the film of the same name in 1991. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.

His work on oceanographic research, Blue Meridian, with photographer Peter A. Lake, documented the making of the film Blue Water, White Death (1971), directed by Peter Gimbel and Jim Lipscomb. - Wiki

Ted Smallwood Store
Ted Smallwood Store Photo: Wiki

Ted Smallwood Store

The Smallwood Store is located in the Everglades.

Everglades National Park is a U.S. National Park in Florida that protects the southern 20 percent of the original Everglades.

In the United States, it is the largest tropical wilderness, the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippi River, and is visited on average by one million people each year.

It is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states after Death Valley and Yellowstone.

It has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance, one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists.

Leah Groveman and dad Alton Ford
Leah Groveman and dad Alton Ford Photo courtesy of Leah Groveman, used with permission

Leah Groveman and dad Alton Ford

This was taken on the wedding day of Alton Ford's youngest. She is Leah Jean Ford Groveman. She also attended the play, "Killing Mister Watson," with her dad, Alton.

The wedding was held in Maryland. Ford was in attendance, and he resides in Fort Myers, Fla.

Ford knew and appreciated authors Peter Matthiessen, Totch Brown and still knows Randy Wayne White.

Peter Matthiessen in 2005
Peter Matthiessen in 2005 Photo: Getty Images for Focus Features

Peter Matthiessen in 2005

In 1959, Mathiessen published the first edition of Wildlife in America.

The book is about a history of the extinction and endangerment of animal and bird species as a consequence of human settlement, throughout North American history, and of the human effort to protect endangered species.

He gave up architecture to become a spokesman and fundraiser for the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy.)

The well-to-do family lived in both New York City and Connecticut where, along with his brother, Matthiessen developed a love of animals that influenced his future work as a wildlife writer and naturalist.

As revealed in a 2006 film, he was working for the CIA at the time, using the Review as his cover. In a 2008 interview with Charlie Rose, Matthiessen stated that he "invented The Paris Review as cover" for his CIA activities.

He completed his novel Partisans while employed by the CIA. He returned to the U.S. in 1954, leaving Plimpton (a childhood friend of his) in charge of the Review. Matthiessen divorced in 1958 and began traveling extensively. - Wiki

Chokoloskee, Fla.
Chokoloskee, Fla. Image: Courtesy

Chokoloskee, Fla.

Chokoloskee is a census-designated place (CDP) in Collier County, Florida, United States.

The population was 404 at the 2000 census.

It is part of the Naples–Marco Island Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen Photo: Wiki

Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen was an American novelist, naturalist, and wilderness writer.

He was a co-founder of the literary magazine The Paris Review and a three-time National Book Award-winner, he was also been a prominent environmental activist.

His nonfiction featured nature and travel—notably The Snow Leopard (1978) – or American Indian issues and history—notably a detailed and controversial study of the Leonard Peltier case, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983).

His fiction was adapted for film: the early story "Travelin' Man" was made into The Young One (1960) by Luis Buñuel[1] and the novel At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965) into the 1991 film of the same name. - Wiki

The Everglades
The Everglades Photo: Wiki

The Everglades

Although most U.S. national parks preserve unique geographic features, Everglades National Park was the first created to protect a fragile ecosystem.

The Everglades are a network of wetlands and forests fed by a river flowing .25 miles (0.40 km) per day out of Lake Okeechobee, southwest into Florida Bay.

The Park is the most significant breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America, and it contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere.

Too, it is home to 36 threatened or protected species including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the West Indian manatee. - Wiki

Sarah Dudley Plimpton with Peter Matthiessen in 2004
Sarah Dudley Plimpton with Peter Matthiessen in 2004 Photo: Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Sarah Dudley Plimpton with Peter Matthiessen in 2004

Matthiessen was born in New York City to Erard A. and Elizabeth (Carey) Matthiessen. (Erard, an architect, joined the Navy during World War II and helped design gunnery training devices.

He later attended the Hotchkiss School, and after briefly serving in the U.S. Navy (1945–47) and Yale University (B.A., 1950), he spent his junior year at the Sorbonne.

At Yale, he majored in English, published short stories (one of which won the prestigious Atlantic Prize), and studied zoology.

Marrying and resolving to undertake a writer’s career, he soon moved back to Paris, where he associated with other expatriate American writers such as William Styron, James Baldwin, and Irwin Shaw. T

In 1953, he became one of the founders, with Harold L. Humes, Thomas Guinzburg, Donald Hall,and George Plimpton, of the literary magazine The Paris Review. - Wiki

Totch Brown on cover of "Everglades" video box
Totch Brown on cover of "Everglades" video box Photo courtesy of David Clarke, used with permission

Totch Brown on cover of "Everglades" video box

Loren G. Brown, nicknamed "Totch", (March 12, 1920 - May 8, 1996) was an author of historical accounts and first-hand descriptions of life in the Florida Everglades.

He wrote "Totch, A Life in the Everglades." The book describes how Floridians survived off the land from the late 1800s until recent times.

His real name and nickname were given to him by a family friend who was the caretaker for the Indiana family's winter home in Florida.

At age 13 he quit school to work full time during the Great Depression. He was a commercial fisherman on the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay, hunted gators, and was an infantryman at the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. He won a Bronze Star. - Wiki

Author Peter Matthiessen in 2005
Author Peter Matthiessen in 2005 Photo: Getty Images for Focus Features

Author Peter Matthiessen in 2005

In 2008, Matthiessen revisited his trilogy of Florida novels published during the 1990s: Killing Mr. Watson (1990), Lost Man's River (1997) and Bone by Bone (1999).

He was inspired by the frontier years of South Florida and the death of plantation owner Edgar J. Watson shortly after the Southwest Florida Hurricane of 1910.

He revised and edited the three books, which had originated as one 1,500-page manuscript, which now yielded the single-volume Shadow Country, his latest award-winner. - Wiki

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