The Tyee has published my review of John Vaillant's book The Tiger: How John Vaillant Caught a Tiger by the Tale. Excerpt:
John Vaillant bowled me over with The Tiger. His book casts light on an urgent but little-known environmental issue on the other side of the Pacific. But his book is also a master class in using the techniques of fiction to tell a nonfiction story.
When a novelist pitches a story idea to an editor, the editor's first question is, "What's at stake?" In this case, it might seem hard to establish the importance of the events Vaillant describes. They take place in the Primorye Krai ("Maritime Province"), an obscure corner of the Russian Far East, roughly at the latitude of Seattle and Vancouver. Despite its brutal winters, it supports a complex ecosystem something like that of the B.C. coast: fish, forests, big predators, and hungry humans.
The Primorye and B.C. have other parallels: Just as we provide China with an illegal supply of bear paws and gall bladders, the poachers of the Primorye make big money killing tigers to supply the Chinese market.
So we can identify with what's at stake for those poachers; a lot of North Americans break the law to pay the rent.
Writers have a saying about their business: "You can't make a living, but you can make a killing." Poachers would agree completely.