Irons in the Fire

John McPhee

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

224 Pages



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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).


Praise for Irons in the Fire

"McPhee is known as the dean of 'literary journalists' . . . His writing creates its own wonderful topographical map of the ways of the world, contemplated with both microcosmic closeness and cosmic breadth."—Kate Shatzkin, The Baltimore Sun

"Somehow McPhee finds, again and again, the kind of people we're told don't exist anymore: unsung heroes . . . living lives of absolute mastery of their varied fields. A master himself, McPhee writes about them with grace. This is a close to poetry as journalism gets."—Andrea Gollin, Miami Herald

"McPhee's essays are proof that the kind of journalism that can effortlessly put a topic into perfect perspective will never go out of style."—Robert R. Harris, The New York Times Book Review

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Irons in the Fire
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
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  • John McPhee

  • John McPhee is the author of more than 25 books, including Annals of the Former World, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction in 1999. He has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1965 and lives in Princeton, New Jersey. McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were both nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science.
  • John McPhee Peter Cook