Irons in the Fire begins with the title essay and a trip to Nevada, where, in the company of a brand inspector, John McPhee discovers that cattle rustling is not just history. People, places, and events as unlikely as a virgin forest in central New Jersey, a blind writer-professor working at his computer, an auction of exotic cars, a forensic geologist on a murder case, a mountain of forty-four million scrap tires in California, and a repair day for Plymouth Rock shape the scenes and substance of the other essays. From first to last, McPhee is at the top of his form, his writing "full of ideas in force, of attempts at progress, of a world endlessly flexed with promise" (Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review).
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Irons in the Fire
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IRONS IN THE FIREIn Princeton, New Jersey, where I live, I was having lunch not long ago with a friend just home from Nevada. He prospects there for precious metals, in the isolation country in the eastern part of the state, hundreds of miles from Reno and about as far from Las Vegas. Between the Horse Range and the Pancake Range, beside a crossroads café in Nye County, he had seen a bright-white vehicle with three antennas and an overhead bank of red and blue lights. On its side was the Great Seal of the State of Nevada, in the center of a gold seven-point star. It appeared