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MacQuarrie, Kim

MacQuarrie, Kim




E-mail—[email protected]


Documentary filmmaker, writer, and anthropologist.


Recipient of four Emmy awards and four Cine Golden Eagle awards; Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival award for best series; Kiriyama Prize, for a "notable book," 2008, for The Last Days of the Incas.


Peru's Amazonian Eden: Manu National Park and Biosphere Reserve, Francis O. Patthey (Barcelona, Spain), 1991.

Oro De Los Andes: Las Llamas, Alpacas, Vicuñas y Guanacos de Sudamérica, Francis O. Patthey (Barcelona, Spain), 1994, translation published as Gold of the Andes: The Llamas, Alpacas, Vicuñas, and Guanacos of South America, Francis O. Patthey (Barcelona, Spain), 1994.

(With André Bartschi) Where the Andes Meet the Amazon: Peru and Bolivia's Bahuaja-Sonene and Madidi National Parks, Francis O. Patthey (Barcelona, Spain), 2001.

The Last Days of the Incas, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.


Documentary filmmaker Kim MacQuarrie has traveled widely, documenting the natural and cultural history of such places as Papua New Guinea, Siberia, and Peru. Where the Andes Meet the Amazon: Peru and Bolivia's Bahuaja-Sonene and Madidi National Parks, a book of photographs by André Bartschi for which MacQuarrie wrote the text, focuses on the rich biological and human diversity of the Bahuaja-Sonene and Madidi National Parks on the border between Peru and Bolivia along the eastern slopes of the Andes. These parks, which protect over eight million hectares of land from development, encompass several different climate zones, from high altitude mountains to the tropical jungle of the Amazon River. The area is one of the world's most biologically rich and diverse regions; its wildlife include pink flamingos, vicunas, jaguars, giant anteaters, rare spectacled bears, maned wolves, giant otters, numerous species of orchids, more than 1,000 species of birds, ten species of monkeys, and a huge variety of fish.

As MacQuarrie explains, the region has also been shaped by many human cultures. In ancient times the Incas traveled there from their mountain cities to trade with the river-dwelling peoples below. Spanish armies and adventurers made their way through the jungles along the rivers looking for gold; in the nineteenth century, the region's plentiful rubber trees made vast fortunes for industrialists. According to MacQuarrie, the region later became a hideout for Nazi war criminals; it remains a place of great interest to scientific researchers, who hope to learn the potential pharmacological uses of its plants.

While MacQuarrie worked on a film project on the Machiguenga Indians in Peru's southeastern rainforest, a tribe told him stories of their ancestors' contacts with Inca traders. MacQuarrie became interested in the Incan empire, and this fascination led him to research and write The Last Days of the Incas. The book covers the period from the empire's first contact with European explorers in 1526 to its collapse in 1572, as well as twentieth-century developments such as the discovery of Machu Picchu in 1911 and the discovery of the Incas' lost capital of Vilcabamba in 1964. MacQuarrie recounts the exploits of the Spaniards whose brutal conquest of the ancient Incan capital, Cuzco, caused the Inca to abandon the city and flee eastward toward the jungle. Many reviewers especially enjoyed the story of how Hiram Bingham, a young Yale professor, discovered the ruins of Machu Picchu high in the Andes in 1911 and identified this site as the center of Incan civilization—a view that remained unchallenged until the 1960s, when Gene Savoy discovered the city of Vilcabamba. Savoy's research showed that this newer city, which the Inca had established in the jungle after fleeing Cuzco, had been the true center of Incan civilization.

A writer for Publishers Weekly observed that MacQuarrie "writes with just the right amount of drama" and provides a "balanced account" of his subject. Kristin Whitehair, in a Library Journal review, found The Last Days of the Incas "highly detailed [and] extremely readable," and Entertainment Weekly contributor Gilbert Cruz called MacQuarrie's story "narrative gold." Times Literary Supplement critic Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, however, felt that the book suffers from lack of context. "MacQuarrie shows no awareness that the fate of the Inca resembled that of some other peoples confronted with European intruders at about the same time," he observed. The experience of the Aztecs, he pointed out, "is so glaringly relevant … that it seems incredible that any writer should not seek to examine the similarities and differences or scour the rest of the Americas for clues to why the Spaniards succeeded in some places but not in others." Booklist reviewer George Cohen, however, praised the book's sweeping scope and wealth of fascinating information, deeming The Last Days of the Incas a "first-rate" work that "will most likely stand as the definitive account of these people."

MacQuarrie told CA: "When I was a boy, I was a vociferous reader. I always found trips to the library fascinating and nothing was better than bringing home a pile of freshly discovered books. The worlds these books introduced me to I have never forgotten—and continue to add to them to this day. That is what made me want to become a writer and continues to fascinate me about the craft of writing.

"I primarily write nonfiction; thus, a lot of research goes into my process. For my recent book, The Last Days of the Incas, I spent about a year reading the original Spanish and Inca chronicles before I actually began to write. It then took about a year to write the book and another to polish it. I was happy if I wrote six manuscript pages a day. After the rough draft of the book was completed, I then re-read each chapter sequentially, making edit after edit until I was satisfied that I could make no further improvements.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is how many books are published each year. I think that in the U.S. it is something like 200,000.

"The Last Days of the Incas is my most accomplished book to date. It recreates one of the greatest epic stories ever to occur in the Americas—the conquest of the Inca Empire by 168 Spaniards led by Francisco Pizarro. It is one of my favorite books because I believe it succeeds in bringing that epic story back to life. Within the book's pages the reader can re-experience what happened and can also meet a wide cast of characters, both Incan, American, and Spanish.

"I hope my books have the same effect on readers as books that I greatly enjoyed have had on me—to recreate worlds that are either very remote (such as my rainforest books) or that no longer exist (such as historical nonfiction)—and to bring those places and events to life. Writing is all about storytelling, thus my hope is that the stories I tell enrich the reader and will change them in some way."



Booklist, April 1, 2007, George Cohen, review of The Last Days of the Incas, p. 21.

Entertainment Weekly, June 1, 2007, Gilbert Cruz, review of The Last Days of the Incas, p. 72.

Library Journal, May 15, 2007, Kristin Whitehair, review of The Last Days of the Incas, p. 101.

Publishers Weekly, March 26, 2007, review of The Last Days of the Incas, p. 78.

Times Literary Supplement, October 10, 2007, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, review of The Last Days of the Incas.

Washington Post Book World, June 24, 2007, Jonathan Yardley, review of The Last Days of the Incas, p. 15.


Last Days of the Incas Web site, (March 17, 2008).

Wild Tropix, (March 17, 2008), synopsis of Where the Andes Meet the Amazon: Peru and Bolivia's Bahuaja-Sonene and Madidi National Parks.

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