Duncan, Dayton 1949–
DUNCAN, Dayton 1949–
PERSONAL: Born September 3, 1949, in Indianola, IA; son of Dudley J. and Caroline Emily (Moffitt) Duncan; married Dianne Kearns (a journalist), August 24, 1986; children: two. Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A., 1971.
ADDRESSES: Home—Walpole, NH. Office—c/o Florentine Films, Maple Grove Rd., P.O. Box 613, Walpole, NH 03608.
CAREER: Keene Sentinel, Keene, NH, reporter, columnist, and editorial writer, 1973–78; chief of staff to the governor of New Hampshire in Concord, 1979–83; deputy press secretary for Walter Mondale for President campaign, Washington, DC, 1983–84; press secretary for Michael Dukakis for President campaign, 1988.
Grass Roots: One Year in the Life of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.
Miles from Nowhere: Tales from America's Contemporary Frontier, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.
People of the West, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996.
The West: An Illustrated History for Children, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996.
Lewis & Clark: Journey of the Corps of Discovery, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Geoffrey C. Ward) Mark Twain (based on the documentary film by Ken Burns), Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Ken Burns) Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.
Scenes of Visionary Enchantment: Reflections on Lewis and Clark, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Boston Globe, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Old Farmer's Almanac, and American Heritage.
SIDELIGHTS: Dayton Duncan has written several books about one of his most passionate interests, the American West. His works on the subject include Out West: An American Journey, Miles from Nowhere: Tales from America's Contemporary Frontier, and People of the West. Duncan is probably best known for his collaborative work with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. The two worked together on a two-hour biography of Mark Twain, as well as a documentary illustrating the journey of Lewis and Clark.
Out West, Duncan's first published book, is the story of the author's retracing of "the historic Lewis and Clark trail along the Missouri River from St. Louis, Missouri, to the river's source in the Rocky Mountains, over the mountains in Idaho, then along the Snake and Columbia rivers to the Pacific Ocean," as Duncan told CA. He continued: "As I recount my own experiences—the people I meet, the small towns I visit, the landscape I encounter—I also retell the story of the expedition of the first American citizens to cross the continent, from 1804 to 1806. The book is a mixture of travelogue and history, of glorying in the open road and explaining the journey of America as the nation moved west."
Miles from Nowhere, a later book by Duncan, describes the author's further travels in little-populated regions of the United States. He found that in these remote regions, despite the presence of such modern conveniences as the satellite dish and VCR, life is essentially the same as it was long ago, and that this is somehow vital to the well-being of our country. Tim McCarthy noted in National Catholic Reporter, "You come away from Miles from Nowhere feeling that if ever that frontier, that primal presence in our national psyche, is truly gone from our spirit, some of our deepest, most radical heritage will die with it and it will mean something fundamentally different to be an American." A Publishers Weekly reviewer advised that "Duncan is no questing William Least Heat Moon or quirky Ian Frazier, but he ably melds history and reportage."
Duncan's collaboration with Ken Burns helped to bring to life Burns's documentaries about Lewis and Clark, and Mark Twain, and they also resulted in books linked to those television films. Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery offers an illustrated account of the expedition, which lasted from 1804 to 1806, ordered by Thomas Jefferson and conducted by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The men and their companions worked their way west from St. Louis to the Pacific coast. In his script and the book, Duncan "tells the story of that epic journey in a straightforward manner," reported Stephen H. Peters in Library Journal. Peters noted that "The challenge in both film and book is to tell a familiar tale in a new way. The authors meet that challenge." Booklistreviewer Gilbert Taylor called it "the last word in Lewis and Clark histories." Duncan's work on Burns's biography of Twain was equally well-received. Recommending the companion volume, Mark Twain, a Publishers Weekly reviewer stated that it "should appeal to a vast potential readership eager to learn more about this manic, profound, daft and provocative mad genius of American culture."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 1993, Roland Wulbert, review of Miles from Nowhere: Tales from America's Contemporary Frontier, p. 1403; August, 1996, Hazel Rochman, review of The West: An Illustrated History for Children and People of the West, p. 1897; August, 1997, Gilbert Taylor, review of Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, p. 1843; December 15, 2003, Candace Smith, review of Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip (audiobook review), p. 762; February 15, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, "Lewis and Clark: Road Fever," p. 1022.
Book Report, November-December, 1993, Jeri Drew, review of Miles from Nowhere, p. 62.
Hollywood Reporter, December, 1999, Harry W. Fritz, review of Lewis and Clark, p. 1417; October 6, 2003, Barry Garron, review of Horatio's Drive (television program), p. 14.
Journal of American History, December, 1999, Harry W. Fritz, review of Lewis and Clark, p. 1417.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2001, review of Mark Twain, p. 1346.
Kliatt, November, 2003, Nancy C. Chaplin, review of Horatio's Drive (audiobook), p. 55.
Library Journal, April 15, 1987, Roger W. Fromm, review of Out West: An American Journey, p. 82; December, 1990, Thomas H. Ferrell, review of Grass Roots: One Year in the Life of the New Hampshire Primary, p. 141; April 1, 1993, Melinda Stivers Leach, review of Miles from Nowhere, p. 120; October 1, 1997, Stephen H. Peters, review of Lewis and Clark, p. 98; November 1, 2003, Gloria Maxwell, review of Horatio's Drive (audiobook), p. 140; March 1, 2004, Margaret Atwater-Singer, review of Scenes of Visionary Enchantment: Reflections on Lewis and Clark, p. 90.
Mother Earth News, November-December, 1988, review of Out West, p. 118.
National Catholic Reporter, July 30, 1993, Tim McCarthy, review of Miles from Nowhere, p. 18.
New Yorker, August 10, 1987, review of Out West, p. 79.
New York Times Book Review, May 31, 1987, Eric Newby, review of Out West, p. 48.
Publishers Weekly, March 6, 1987, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Out West, p. 100; December 14, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Grass Roots, p. 60; March 29, 1993, review of Miles from Nowhere, p. 41; October 8, 2001, review of Mark Twain, p. 57; June 16, 2003, review of Horatio's Drive, p. 61; September 1, 2003, review of Horatio's Drive (audiobook), p. 35.
School Library Journal, October, 1996, George Gleason, review of People of the West and The West, p. 154; June, 2002, Claudia Moore, review of Mark Twain, p. 175.
U.S. News & World Report, July 6, 1987, Alvin P. Sanoff, interview with Dayton Duncan, p. 70.
Variety, November 3, 1997, Ray Richmond, review of Lewis and Clark (television program), p. 32.
Yankee, May, 1991, Geoffrey Elan, review of Grass Roots, p. 12.
BoondocksNet.com, http://www.boondocksnet.com/ (June 20, 2003), Jim Zwick, interview with Dayton Duncan.