American West •  Nature and Biography

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Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave

Sean Prentiss

Winner of the 2016 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Biography—Other

Winner of the 2016 Utah Book Award for Nonfiction

Winner of the 2015 National Outdoor Book Award for History/Biography

Winner of the 2016 Michael Hice Memorial Award from the New Mexico Book Association

Silver Winner of the 2016 PubWest Book Design Award for Adult Trade Book, Non-Illustrated

When the great environmental writer Edward Abbey died in 1989, four of his friends buried him secretly in a hidden desert spot that no one would ever find. The final resting place of the Thoreau of the American West remains unknown and has become part of American folklore. In this book a young writer who went looking for Abbey’s grave combines an account of his quest with a creative biography of Abbey.

Sean Prentiss takes readers across the country as he gathers clues from his research, travel, and interviews with some of Abbey's closest friends—including Jack Loeffler, Ken “Seldom Seen” Sleight, David Petersen, and Doug Peacock. Along the way, Prentiss examines his own sense of rootlessness as he attempts to unravel Abbey’s complicated legacy, raising larger questions about the meaning of place and home.


After years of searching for the ghost of Edward Abbey across the American West, Sean Prentiss has settled with his wife, Sarah, on a small lake in northern Vermont. He now teaches creative writing at Norwich University and is the coeditor of The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: An Anthology of Explorations in Creative Nonfiction.


“(Prentiss) locates and interviews Abbey’s inner circle of friends, and in these faithfully recorded scenes his book . . . catches fire—including a conversation with Doug Peacock, the ex-Green Beret model for Abbey’s monkey-wrenching Hayduke, who in real life keeps a .357 Magnum by his side. The final chapters of Mr. Prentiss’s quest are suspenseful and winning. . . . Finding Abbey is a touching book.”


Wall Street Journal

“A worthy contribution to the Abbey canon. . . . Highly recommended for all interested in the American Southwest, environmentalism, and modern literature.”


Library Journal

“Prentiss offers fine, thoughtful readings of Abbey’s writing, and he applies it judiciously to his life and ours.”


Kirkus Reviews

“Prentiss successfully demonstrates his ability to write an intriguing and compelling story that simultaneously informs, inspires, and entertains. His vivid imagery and unique interviewing style adds depth and passion to his search, resulting in an exceptional narrative that flows smoothly and conveys his admiration for Abbey and the American West. Finding Abbey is a journey well worth taking.”


Foreword Reviews

Finding Abbey is philosophical, poetic, a creative biography and a loving, evocative celebration of a controversial life.”


Shelf Awareness

“What’s best about Sean Prentiss’s ( Finding Abbey) . . . is that the author loves and understands what made Southwest writer Edward Abbey tick, why Abbey’s writing is so resonant and why he was—and still is—so important.”


Durango Herald

“The significance of Abbey in Prentiss’s own life is revealed through precise but emotional prose. The effect is both grounding and electrifying.”


Weekly Alibi

“This book isn’t a biography; those have already been written. Finding Abbey is what you do in grief. Celebrate the life you shared. Analyze the faults. Peer into the darkness. Come out on the other side.”


Santa Fe Reporter

“Even for readers unfamiliar with Abbey or his writings, Finding Abbey’s insights into this problematic man are compelling.”


Seven Days

“( Finding Abbey) brings us on a fascinating journey. Prentiss is especially able to describe in evocative detail the feeling of mountains and deserts and plains. He gives us an essence of the maddening, fiery, outspoken personality of Edward Abbey.”


The Hardwick Gazette

“Readers will find something to envy in Prentiss’s exploration. While having all the makings of an expertly researched piece of narrative journalism, Prentiss also turns the magnifying glass on himself. What is most commendable about Finding Abbey is (Prentiss’s) willingness to go the distance and explore, to think deeply about one of modern America’s most outspoken critics, and to inspire others to look for what (Prentiss) rightfully calls ‘a life worth living.’”


Vermont Sports Magazine

“If you are an Abbey fan, don’t miss this book.”


Wildlife Activist

“Captures the true spirit of humans and our ability to mold ourselves into what we sincerely long to become through whatever life gives us on our own personal journeys.”


Porter Gulch Review

5.5 x 8 in. 240 pages