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The Annual Big Arsenic Fishing Contest!: A Novel

John Nichols

Winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Best Book
Winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Fiction – Other

On the surface this book spins a fisherman’s tall tale about a ribald angling contest between three middle-aged friends who love (and perhaps hate) each other: a preppy trilingual Machiavelli, an intellectual ghetto pool shark, and a brawny Texan who defies his own macho stereotype. All professional writers, the men have met every autumn for eighteen years at the Big Arsenic Springs on the Río Grande to fly-cast for trout and argue about life, literature, marriage, and eco-Armageddon. Their escapades reveal a spirited paean to a beautiful river gorge, and also a poignant cautionary fable about male friendship and cutthroat competition. As aging cripples them all, tragedy mars the tournament. In this insightful and bittersweet love story, masterful storyteller John Nichols brings to life northern New Mexico and three unforgettable characters.


John Nichols is the author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, including The Milagro Beanfield War and The Sterile Cuckoo. His most recent novel is On Top of Spoon Mountain (UNM Press). Also available from UNM Press are his novels American Blood, An Elegy for September, and Conjugal Bliss, as well a collection of essays, Dancing on the Stones.


“The inimitable Nichols returns with his thirteenth novel, a delightfully digressive tale of camaraderie, nature, and cutthroat machismo. . . . In this uncompromising look into the male ego, Nichols is as waggish as ever, keeping the pages turning.”



“The most recent example of why (Nichols) is a New Mexico literary treasure.”


Albuquerque Journal

“Like Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Nichols’s beautifully written tale is as much about the human condition, man’s wanna-be-reverent relationship with nature, and engrossing storytelling as it is about fishing.”


Las Cruces Sun-News

“Nichols is once again a winner with this novel, which is filled with . . . gems.”


Taos News

5.5 x 8 in. 224 pages