PERSONAL: Born in TX. Education: College graduate.
CAREER: Writer, novelist, historian, journalist, screenwriter, and stonemason. Witness, Inc. (nonprofit human rights and aid group), founder; served as an elections supervisor for Bosnia's first democratic election, 1996.
AWARDS, HONORS: British Boardman-Tasker Award for Mountain Literature and American Alpine Club's Literary Award, both 1993, both for The Ascent; Western Writers of America Spur Award for best novel, 1994, for Empire of Bones; Texas Literary Award, for Duel of Eagles; grand prize, Banff Mountain Book and Film Festival, for The Wall.
Outlaw: The True Story of Claude Dallas, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1985.
Angels of Light (novel), Beech Tree Books, (New York, NY), 1987.
Duel of Eagles: The Mexican and U.S. Fight for the Alamo, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1990
The Ascent: A Novel, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
Empire of Bones: A Novel of Sam Houston and the Texas Revolution, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
The Descent: A Novel, Crown (New York, NY), 1999.
Year Zero: A Novel, Pocket (New York, NY), 2002.
The Reckoning (novel), Atria Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Wall: A Thriller, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Deeper: A Novel, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Also author of foreword, Mountain Journeys: Stories of Climbers and Their Climbs, edited by James P. Vermeulen, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 1989.
ADAPTATIONS: Several of Long's works have been adapted for film, including Outlaw: The True Story of Claude Dallas, adapted for television as Manhunt for Claude Dallas, 1986. The films Cliffhanger and The Alamo are based on the author's Angels of Light and Duel of Eagles, respectively.
SIDELIGHTS: Speaking to BookReporter.com interviewer Joe Hartlaub, Jeff Long explained that after majoring in anthropology, philosophy, and history, he left college greatly unemployable. This status, Long realized, offered him the time and opportunity to try his hand at writing. So he took on jobs as a stonemason during the summers, saved his money, and wrote throughout the winters. Disregarding the typical advice that most writing teachers suggest, namely to write what you know about the most, Long decided he wanted to explore what he knew the least. "Life is an adventure," he said. "Writing should be, too."
With this philosophy, Long frequented his local university library and threw himself into the task of researching his topics. "Ignorance is a wonderful, brute traveling companion if you know how to live with him," he told Hartlaub. "The reward can be treasure chests filled with facts and details that can make your writing both credible and richly marbled."
Long's first published work, Outlaw: The True Story of Claude Dallas, tells the story of a young man who lived mostly by himself in the wild, in the remote mountain areas of Idaho and Nevada. Some people described him as a mountain man, a throwback to the nineteenth century era of trappers. Others saw him as a man who enjoyed killing and torturing animals. Dallas, at the age of thirty, gunned down two game wardens who were on his trail for poaching. It took almost a year and a half for police teams to find and eventually bring Dallas to trial.
Long's story covers both the brutal side of Dallas as well as the popular support he enjoyed from some who felt Dallas lived by a different set of rules than those posed by society. Newsweek contributor Peter S. Prescott wrote that Long "assembled the bones of a good story," although Prescott wished that he had imbued it with "a vision that might make it significant."
Angels of Light, Long's first novel, is set in California's Yosemite Valley and follows the lives and passions of men who live for extended periods of time out in nature as they attempt to climb the most difficult peaks in the park. During one episode, a small plane carrying a large cargo of marijuana crashes in the park; the men claim the booty, only to find themselves going down a path fraught with disaster. In a Publishers Weekly review, Sybil Steinberg wrote that other climbers would likely enjoy this story of "mythic properties."
In Duel of Eagles: The Mexican and U.S. Fight for the Alamo, Long takes up a different historical perspective of the great battle at the Alamo, discarding the myths that have been created around this historical event. For his research, he dug into diaries, letters, and journals and came up with an account that sparked both intense criticism and praise. Long wanted to explore the ways that nations conquer territories and peoples. This perspective somewhat discouraged Booklist's Steve Weingartner, who wrote that he could not tell whether "Long enjoyed what he was doing or hated it with a passion," due to the fact that Long brings up the seedier side of the mythologized characters that took part in this battle. For instance, Long points out that Sam Houston was addicted to opium, and that Jim Bowie looked at Texas as a great site in which to develop a slave trade. In conclusion, however, Weingartner found the book "rousing, grandly entertaining, and resolutely factual."
Long revisits his acquired passion for mountain climbing in The Ascent: A Novel. Long reaches back to his experiences in the 1970s, when he spent time climbing and leading tour groups in Tibet, to create a story about a group of Americans—eight men and two women—who attempt to climb the Tibetan side of Mt. Everest. Some of the characters in this story have experienced a previous climb that ended in disaster. Stanley Planton, writing in the Library Journal, highly recommended the book "for all libraries." Planton further stated that Long's story "reminds us that each person is the product of past choices."
Three years after completing his Duel of Eagles, Long published another book about the same historical period, Empire of Bones: A Novel of Sam Houston and the Texas Revolution, this time zeroing in specifically on Houston and fictionalizing his story. John Eisenhower, writing in the Washington Post Book World, believed that due to the exhaustive research Long did for his nonfiction work Duel of Eagles, Empire of Bones was probably written with substantial truth behind it.
Long published The Descent: A Novel, whose title is a word play on his novel The Ascent. Instead of climbing up a mountain, the characters in The Descent discover horned and evil humanoids lurking in vast caverns inside the Earth. American forces are summoned to kill the beasts and their leader, Satan. Scientific expeditions set out to explore the creatures' caves—which spread out so far they eventually extend beneath the Pacific Ocean—to discover if these creatures are an unknown branch of humankind. The Descent took Long years to develop, and Hartlaub noted that this time spent in research really shows. "Literally every page of this novel demonstrates the meticulous work of a true craftsman," the reviewer maintained.
Year Zero: A Novel draws on the author's experiences of climbing in the Himalayas and on his imprisonment in three Nepalese jails in 1977 following one such expedition. The book tells the story of a plague released from within an ancient artifact. The sickness leaves no survivors, and a team of scientists gather together to battle the disease, which is named Corfu after the place where it originated. Among the scientists is the twenty-year-old scientific prodigy Miranda Abbot and the egotistic Edward Cavendish, who has been experimentally cloning humans. As the plague spreads, people in the United States have varying degrees of reaction, from widespread terror to the belief by religious zealots that the plague represents Judgment Day. Harriet Klausner, writing on the AllReaders.com Web site, called the novel "an action-packed apocalyptic thriller that has two prime story lines that eventually merge into an exciting climax." Booklist contributor David Pitt wrote: "Adventure novels don't get much gutsier than this."
Long's next novel, The Reckoning, focuses on an attempt to recover the remains of a U.S. military pilot shot down decades earlier in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Molly Drake, a freelance photojournalist, brings her new 10,000-dollar digital camera to photograph the recovery effort of the pilot. Molly actually finds the body but is expelled from the site. Nevertheless, she and some other civilians begin the hunt for a missing Armored Cavalry unit deep in the Cambodian jungle, where ghostly images begin to appear on Molly's high-tech camera. Laura A.B. Cifelli, writing in the Library Journal, commented that the author "writes a fast-paced thrill-ride using history and artifacts to propel his story to an astounding conclusion." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "A creeping sense of dread, the strange weather, a cast of intriguingly repellent characters keep readers tethered to the story."
Long returned to his love for climbing in his novel The Wall: A Thriller. Widowed geologist Hugh Glass and his friend Lewis Cole, whose wife is divorcing him, decide to climb Yosemite's El Capitan thirty-five years after an earlier climb where they met the women they eventually married. The adventure, however, turns out to be more then they bargained for as they encounter the body of a fallen climber, a mountain man who steals the corpse, and a forest fire. "The surprise ending is a true shocker in this hurtling, gripping read," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Gilbert Cruz, writing in Entertainment Weekly, rated The Wall "far above an increasingly high pile of pedestrian thrillers." A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that the novel contained "heart-stopping vertical adventure relieved from time to time by old-guy angst."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 1990, Steve Weingartner, review of Duel of Eagles: The Mexican and U.S. Fight for the Alamo, p. 2066; May 15, 1992, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Ascent: A Novel, pp. 1662-1663; February 15, 1993, Gilbert Taylor, review of Empire of Bones: A Novel of Sam Houston and the Texas Revolution, p. 1036; March 15, 1999, David Pitt, review of The Descent: A Novel, p. 1260; March 1, 2002, David Pitt, review of Year Zero, p. 1096; July, 2004, Elliott Swanson, review of The Reckoning, p. 1818.
Choice, December, 1990, J. Tricamo, review of Duel of Eagles, pp. 693-694.
Daily Variety, July 22, 2002, David Bloom, "D'Works falls for 'Descent,'" p. 6.
Entertainment Weekly, February 3, 2006, Gilbert Cruz, review of The Wall, p. 74.
Historian, autumn, 1993, Randolph B. Campbell, review of Empire of Bones, pp. 156-157.
Journal of the Early Republic, fall, 1991, Dorman H. Winfrey, review of Duel of Eagles, pp. 434-436.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1984, review of Outlaw: The True Story of Claude Dallas, p. 1189; April 15, 1987, review of Angels of Light, pp. 583-584; April 15, 1992, review of The Ascent, p. 489; June 1, 1999, review of The Descent, pp. 824-825; February 15, 2002, review of Year Zero, p. 212; May 1, 2004, review of The Reckoning, p. 417; November 15, 2005, review of The Wall, p. 1207.
Library Journal, January, 1985, Kenneth F. Kister, review of Outlaw, p. 97; July, 1990, Raymond L. Puffer, review of Duel of Eagles, p. 110; June 1, 1992, Stanley Planton, review of The Ascent, p. 177; March 15, 1993, Stanley Planton, review of Empire of Bones, p. 107; May 1, 1999, Alicia Graybill, review of The Descent, p. 110; April 15, 2002, Alicia Graybill, review of Year Zero, p. 126; July, 2004, Laura A.B. Cifelli, review of The Reckoning, p. 72.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 12, 1985, Marty Lieberman, review of Outlaw, p. 4; March 21, 1993, Larry L. King, "Sam's Song," pp. 4, 8.
Newsweek, March 4, 1985, Peter S. Prescott, "Footnotes," p. 67B.
Publishers Weekly, December 7, 1984, review of Outlaw, p. 61; May 22, 1987, Sybil Steinberg, review of Angels of Light, p. 65; June 23, 1989, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Mountain Journeys: Stories of Climbers and Their Climbs, p. 45; June 29, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Duel of Eagles; April 13, 1992, review of The Ascent, p. 40; January 18, 1993, review of Empire of Bones, p. 450; May 24, 1999, review of The Descent, p. 64; April 22, 2002, review of Year Zero, p. 51; May 24, 2004, review of The Reckoning, p. 41; November 7, 2005, review of The Wall, p. 52.
Southwestern Historical Quarterly, July, 1992, Paul Andrew Hutton, review of Duel of Eagles, pp. 134-135.
Texas Monthly, September, 1990, Suzanne Winckler, review of Duel of Eagles, pp. 34-37.
Washington Post Book World, March 14, 1993, John Eisenhower, "The President of Texas," p. 5.
About: Horror and Suspense Movies, http://horror.about.com/ (August 29, 2006), Eileen Rieback, "Exclusive Interview with Jeff Long."
AllReaders.com, http://allreaders.com/ (August 29, 2006), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Year Zero and The Reckoning.
BookReporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (September 15, 2001), Joe Hartlaub, "Author Profile: Jeff Long"; (February 2, 2002), review of The Descent.
BrothersJudd.com, http://www.brothersjudd.com/ (August 29, 2006), review of The Wall.
Fantastic Fiction, http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (August 29, 2006), information on author's works.
Jeff Long Home Page, http://www.jefflongbooks.com (August 29, 2006).