• Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

  • The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis
  • By: Timothy Egan
  • Narrated by: David Drummond
  • Length: 11 hrs and 56 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (430 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, Egan's book tells the remarkable untold story behind Edward Curtis's iconic photographs, following him throughout Indian country from desert to rainforest as he struggled to document the stories and rituals of more than 80 tribes. Even with the backing of Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, it took tremendous perseverance. The undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate.

He would die penniless and unknown in Hollywood just a few years after publishing the last of his 20 volumes. But the charming rogue with the grade-school education had fulfilled his promise - his great adventure succeeded in creating one of America's most stunning cultural achievements.

PDF features Edward Curtis photographs.

©2012 Timothy Egan (P)2012 Dreamscape Media, LLC

Critic Reviews

"With a reporter's eye for detail, Egan delivers a gracefully written biography and adventure story." ( Publishers Weekly)
"Lucent prose illuminates a man obscured for years in history's shadows." ( Kirkus Reviews)

What listeners say about Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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STUPENDOUS!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Riveting, no matter any preconceptions about Curtis, this author is a master.

What other book might you compare Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher to and why?

Rebecca Solnit's remarkable River of Shadows, which is about Edweard Muybridge and the amazing geo-socio-psychological and historical reasons for his work.

What about David Drummond’s performance did you like?

He is really perfect. Has a world-weary voice, suitable to the material.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The Impossible Dream! A Quixotic Story of a man who gave up everything for a 20 volume photobook.

Any additional comments?

My review of the book on the ICP Library blog

9 people found this helpful

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Who Selected the Gawd-Awful Narrator?

I couldn't listen to more than 15 minutes of the book because the narrator is awful. I find it difficult to believe that Timothy Egan, who writes with great passion on all his subjects selected, or approved the narrator who reads it sans emotion. My husband's reading of paper towels is more interesting. Unfortunately I could not just rate the section on performance, hence my meaningless rating on Overall and Story. The,only way I will be able to enjoy the book is to read it in print.

6 people found this helpful

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Great story but less than great narrator

This is a great biography of an incredible photographer. I am quite familiar with his astounding portraits of the life of American Indians at the turn of last century. As I listened to the book I went online to look up the photographs that are referred to and that made the story even more intriguing. As Americans we are familiar with many of these images however knowing the story of Mr. Curtis and his devotion to telling the story of our indigenous peoples makes the photos come alive.

I found the narration lacking however. I'll admit I am spoiled by readers such as George Guidall and James Marsters who can impart such distinct character into each player in a story. David Drummond's style reminded me of a television news reporter more than the voice of someone telling the story of an important piece of American history.

As an aside; much of this story takes place in and around Seattle which is close to where I live so that made the story even more interesting for me and perhaps other Seattlites.

5 people found this helpful

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Now I want to see the 20 volumes he published

I was unsure I would like this book but it's fascinating to know the full story of Curtiss' huge project. I just ordered a book with some of the pictures, and I want to track down the full set near me as well as his film

4 people found this helpful

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Good historical biography

I grew up in Seattle and didn't know anything about Curtis except having seen his photographs, it is always amazing what you find in your own backyard that they never even mentioned in school. What a dedicated person his was

4 people found this helpful

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Interesting book, but kind of choppy

Interesting book, but kind of choppy in presentation. The narrator sounded somewhat preachy. Of course, there is also the problem that this is a book about a photographer and the listener can't look at any of the pictures.

2 people found this helpful

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An Obsession with a Culture

This was an excellent book about the life of Edward Curtis. Curtiss himself overcame a great many odds early in life, becoming the man of the house when his preacher father could not support the family. A freak accident led to a new vocation and he became a popular photographer and mountaineer. During his early years of photography (a relatively new medium at the time) he took photographs of native people and became obsessed with creating a record of the culture of a people that was being lost. Against all odds he managed to get bare bones funding, creating a massive 20 volume work without pay for himself. Always in debt, with few patrons supporting his work. His treatment under the House of Morgan, especially the heirs was abominable. He sacrificed family life to capture the soul of a nation of people. He knew then what was being lost and how the White man's ways were harming native people. While the press noted his achievements with acclaim, he was never truly appreciated during his lifetime. His wife tried to turn their children against him, though she did not succeed with most. The years after finishing the 20 volume work saw many ignoring him and he died penniless and alone.

Ironically, many years after his death, his work helped advance a renaissance of native culture. His books became collector's items, loved by collectors and photographers. Even more so, Native Americans discovered the ways of their past through his detailed accounts of life, music, ceremonies and other cultural events. This is the most heartening. His work really did help to save the ways of people many thought were lost or unrecoverable. I read this book using immersion reading while listening to the audiobook. An excellent work about a little know historian.

1 person found this helpful

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Must listen for all who appreciate Edward Curtis

Any additional comments?

For anyone who has marveled at Curtis's photographs this is an essential listen. I was amazed at how monumental the effort in creating the 20 volumes of the North American Indian actually was. I new he had finacial backing but had no idea how much - 20 million in today's dollars. I also did not know how many others had been involved and lastly how much he sacrificed in creating this. His achievements will be eternal.
Even though he did not gain financially from his work he did get to live a life of a purposeful wanderer traveling throughout the United States with someone else paying for it.
Highly recommend

1 person found this helpful

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Disappointment

What would have made Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher better?

I was so looking forward to this book but the narrator totally left me disappointed.
I can't even begin to describe the delivery. Almost no inflection. I'm sorry I bought the book.

What did you like best about this story?

I was so bored to tears I didn't even listen to the whole thing.

What didn’t you like about David Drummond’s performance?

Nothing

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

If I can get past the droaning monotony of the narrator I will try to listen to it again. Right now and has no saving grace

2 people found this helpful

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now we know the rest of the story.

having seen the Curtis portraits for most all of my life, I knew he must have been an extraordinary photographer. I am in awe of his dedication, although mildly disappointed in his tunnel vision to the detrement of his family and friends. realizing what he accomplished in this lifetime's work, it is understandable.