by Tony Horwitz
With Spying on the South, the best-selling author of Confederates in the Attic returns to the South and the Civil War era for an epic adventure on the trail of America's greatest landscape architect. In the 1850s, the young Frederick Law Olmsted was adrift, a restless farmer and dreamer in search of a mission. He found it during an extraordinary journey, as an undercover correspondent in the South for the up-and-coming New York Times.
For the Connecticut Yankee, pen name Yeoman, the South was alien, often hostile territory. Yet Olmsted traveled for 14 months, by horseback, steamboat, and stagecoach, seeking dialogue and common ground. His vivid dispatches about the lives and beliefs of Southerners were revelatory for readers of his day, and Yeoman's remarkable trek also reshaped the American landscape, as Olmsted sought to reform his own society by creating democratic spaces for the uplift of all. The result: Central Park and Olmsted's career as America's first and foremost landscape architect.
Tony Horwitz rediscovers Yeoman Olmsted amidst the discord and polarization of our own time. Is America still one country? In search of answers, and his own adventures, Horwitz follows Olmsted's tracks and often his mode of transport (including muleback): through Appalachia, down the Mississippi River, into bayou Louisiana, and across Texas to the contested Mexican borderland. Venturing far off beaten paths, Horwitz uncovers bracing vestiges and strange new mutations of the Cotton Kingdom. Horwitz's intrepid and often hilarious journey through an outsized American landscape is a masterpiece in the tradition of Great Plains, Bad Land, and the author's own classic, Confederates in the Attic.
"Timely... A valuable work that combines biography, history and travelogue... Horwitz is a smooth writer and an even better reporter (hardly surprising, given that he won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting at The Wall Street Journal), and he recounts his travels with insight interspersed with humor, as well as with an intermittent raising of the eyebrows at numerous oddities and occasional evils." -- The New York Times Book Review
"I've been waiting for Tony Horwitz to write another big on-the-road book that crisscrosses the American cultural divide... Spying on the South is every bit as enlightening and alive with detail, absurdity and colorful characters as Confederates in the Attic was." -- NPR
About the Author:
Tony Horwitz was a native of Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. As a newspaper reporter he spent a decade overseas, mainly covering wars and conflict in the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans for The Wall Street Journal. Returning to the U.S., he won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting and wrote for The New Yorker before becoming a full-time author. His books include the national and New York Times bestsellers, Confederates in the Attic, Blue Latitudes, Baghdad Without a Map and A Voyage Long and Strange. Midnight Rising was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2011 and one of the year's ten best books by Library Journal. Tony was also a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the president of the Society of American Historians. He is survived by his wife Geraldine Brooks and their two sons, Nathaniel and Bizu.