Jenkins, Mark 1958-
JENKINS, Mark 1958-
PERSONAL: Born November 22, 1958, in IA; son of Terry (a professor) and Sharon (Smehakken) Jenkins; married Susan Ibara (a professor); children: Addi Marquette. Education: University of Wyoming, B.A., and M.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—1102 Grand, Laramie, WY 82070. Agent—Carl D. Brandt, Brandt & Brandt Literary Agents, Inc., 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.
CAREER: Freelance writer, 1983—; Cross Country Skier, Emmaus, PA, managing editor, 1988; Adventure Travel, managing editor, 1988; Backpacker, Emmaus, Rocky Mountain editor, beginning 1989; Men's Health Magazine, investigative editor, 1997—.
Off the Map: Bicycling across Siberia, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
To Timbuktu: A Journey down the Niger, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.
The Hard Way: Stories of Danger, Survival, and the Soul of Adventure, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: When Mark Jenkins graduated from college with a degree in philosophy, it did not take him long to discover that there was not a big market for philosophers. He knew he wanted to be a writer, but the jobs he first applied for required a degree in journalism, so he continued to find himself unemployable in a field that interested him. So he and his girlfriend moved to Medicine Bowl, WY, where he skied all day and wrote all night, studying his craft. His break came when he was offered a position with Cross Country Skiing Magazine, a job that would teach him the insides of publishing. This experience, plus the skills he had honed in writing, and his love of travel and adventure have all successfully come together in a series of books.
Jenkins was only twelve years old when he first traveled to Europe. His father, a college professor, had taken a sabbatical from teaching, and the family spent a year in the Netherlands. Later, while still a young teen, he traveled to Africa, Russia, and other European countries. His adventures in other lands, since then, have just become more spectacular. He once commented that he is paid, however, not for the adventures, but for being able to distill the important details from the adventures to create interesting stories. A task that finds him up early in the morning, in his office basement.
His first book, Off the Map: Bicycling across Siberia, relates Jenkins's experience of being a member of a seven-person team that cycled from Vladivostok to Leningrad, a distance twice as long as the breadth of the United States. The feat has since been heralded in the Guinness Book of World Records. The journey was long and hard, but the book is not only about the difficulties of biking. Jenkins also writes about the people that he met along the way and the details of their sometimes-depraved lifestyles. David Newnham, for London's Guardian, noted that Jenkins's book is a departure from many other books about adventure and cycling. Jenkins gets into more than the equipment, Newnham found, as he shares his experiences both on and off the bike. Newnham also praised Jenkins's writing, which he likened to "a prose poem."
Jenkins's next trip took him to Mali, Africa, an adventure that is recorded in To Timbuktu: A Journey down the Niger, which relates a "riveting tale of travel," according to Mary Warner Marien for the Christian Science Monitor. The story recounts three separate tales, Warner Marien pointed out. One relates the misadventures of early European adventurers in Africa, and the other two describe two separate trips that Jenkins shared with his high school friend, Mike Moe. Their first trip to Mali occurred right after graduation from high school, as the two young teens sought out the legendary city of Timbuktu. They were terribly unprepared for their quest and had to give up after first being robbed and later realizing how tenuous their lives were when they found themselves stranded in the middle of the Sahara Desert. The two friends reunited, fifteen years later, determined to reach their earlier goal. Once in Africa, they set off in a canoe on the Niger River, seeking its source, which would eventually take them to Timbuktu. Along the way, they had to rely on maps that had not been revised since 1930 and share the river with crocodiles and hippos. David Schau, for Library Journal, called Jenkins's book an "excellent travel yarn"; while a Publishers Weekly reviewer referred to it as a "gripping adventure."
Jenkins's most recent book, The Hard Way: Stories of Danger, Survival, and the Soul of Adventure, is a collection of essays in which Jenkins reflects on almost two dozen different excursions that he has made into wild country. Whether he's on a glacier in Wyoming or climbing a mountain in Tibet, wrote a Kirkus Reviews critic, "there's no denying Jenkins's relish at being outdoors," especially if that particular place in the great outdoors has an element of danger. Most critics seem to agree that the unifying theme in Jenkins's adventures is his love of the unknown. He likes best to travel to places that he has read little or nothing about; places from which he does not know how or when he will return. It is this unknown element that sharpens his focus. The Hard Way includes trips to the Italian ridge of the Matterhorn, to battlefields in Turkey, to unexplored canyons in Australia, and the Simen Mountains in Ethiopia. In a review for Booklist, David Pitt remarked that he enjoyed Jenkins's books because of the way the author's writing style "invites" the reader to join in on the adventure.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1997, Benjamin Segedin, review of To Timbuktu: A Journey down the Niger, p. 1649; June 1, 2002, David Pitt, review of The Hard Way: Stories of Danger, Survival, and the Soul of Adventure, p. 1665.
Christian Science Monitor, September 25, 1997, Mary Warner Marien, review of To Timbuktu, p. B1.
Guardian (London, England), October 3, 1998, David Newhham, review of Off the Map: Bicycling across Siberia, p. 15.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of The Hard Way, pp. 637-638.
Library Journal, May 15, 1997, David Schau, review of To Timbuktu, p. 91.
Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1997, Bill Berkeley, review of To Timbuktu, p. 6.
New York Times, June 25, 1997, Richard Bernstein, review of To Timbuktu, p. B7.
New York Times Book Review, October 12, 1997, Nina Sonenberg, review of To Timbuktu, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, April 7, 1997, review of To Timbuktu, p. 78.
School Library Journal, October, 2002, review of The Hard Way, p. 197.*