Author Event: John Vaillant and *The Tiger*

A few weeks ago our local bookshop hosted an event with John Vaillant reading from and discussing his latest work of nonfiction, The Tiger:  A True Story of Vengeance and Survival.

The Tiger is, as indicated, a true account of a Siberian tiger and the team that is tracking him.

In December 1997, in a remote Russian village, trackers realize that seemingly random killings by the tiger are, in fact, being methodically carried out by this highly intelligent super-predator.  They must find the tiger before he strikes again.

In his book, Vaillant explores the relationships between this now-endangered animal and the historic native tribes, Russian settlers, and present-day poachers who hunt it.  In retelling the narrative events of December 1997, Vaillant creates three main characters – a poacher, the lead tracker, and the tiger itself.

Vaillant was a wonderful presenter – full of enthusiasm for the tale and for the cunning and power of the tiger.  He accompanied his reading and Q&A with a slide show, allowing his audience to see the landscape where this happened, where on the map it’s located, and several photos of a Siberian tiger.  In the attack position, on rear legs, it is menacing to say the least!  Beautiful and regal, the Amur tiger is the world’s largest living cat, weighing up to 600 pounds with a 10-foot long body. [And I must pause to share huge thanks to Mr. Boston Bibliophile, the spouse of intrepid blogger/librarian Boston Bibliophile; Mr. BB saved the evening when his technical skills bridged the gap between a MacBook and a projector who were not getting along!]

Vaillant explained that Perestroika set the stage for what transpired in this remote village, and that it’s a story about harmony as much as it is about tragedy.  The Russian Far East  is heavily resource-dependent; the logging village where the attack occurred was carved out of the forest in the 1970s.  When this logging company was shut down in 1992, people stayed in the village because of the amenities that had been built, and turned to hunting and fishing, meeting their needs through the forest.

The border with China opened under Perestroika, a time when the Russians on the border had never been poorer and the Chinese on the other side of the border had never been richer.  The previously closed border had actually protected the Amur tiger, which Russia declared a forbidden species for hunting in 1947.  When the border opened, poachers crossed over into Russian territory.

The victim of the initial attack, Vladamir Markov, became a poacher after five years of unemployment.  He wounded the tiger at close range with a shotgun.  The tiger identified Markov and tracked him …

And that’s where I’ll leave you, teasing you into the story.  The Tiger sits (patiently, not yet attacking) on my nightstand, calling to me for my next nonfiction pick.  For a peek at some of the still footage we enjoyed during the presentation, check out this video:    

Oh, but wait, before you click “play,” here’s a mnemonic to remind you just how powerful that tiger is:  Viagra is the sanskrit word for tiger!

About the author:  A resident of Vancouver, Vaillant is also the author of The Golden Spruce. He has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, and Men’s Journal, among others.

Here’s a flattering review from AmyReads, who says:

Man oh man this was an EXCITING book! There was just so much going on. Not only was it the story of this man-eating tiger and all of the players involved … but it was also the history of the area including economic and political, history of Russia as a whole, the conservation and environmental issues and concerns in that area, the history and conservation of tigers throughout the world, and the evolution of humans and tigers through time. Quite a list right?

8 comments to Author Event: John Vaillant and *The Tiger*

  • I have this book on my stack as well, and am really looking forward to getting the chance to read it. It sounds like a wonderful story.

  • This sounds like an amazing story…and that author isn’t bad to look at either!

  • I have Vaillant’s book in print AND audio, must get to it!

  • zibilee – I appreciate how Vaillant stated in his intro to the event “it’s as much about harmony as tragedy. I feel he gives a balanced (and well-researched) story.

    Sandy – I concur on both points :)

    Jen – oh, does Vaillant narrate? Based on his passion when speaking about THE TIGER book, and ‘the tiger’ in general, I imagine it’s an engaging audio.

  • Amy

    How exciting! I really really loved this book!!

  • I’m really looking forward to this book and (hopefully) getting to see the author as well!

  • Wow. This sounds like a must read.

  • Dominique Reymond

    Dear Sir,
    I just finished your book, “the tiger”, that I bought in Morges in Switzerland. You dedicated me my copy and at that time I put the book with others “to be read”.
    I finished it in 5 days.
    It looks like an antique tragedy. They are the ones they will die and the others which will survive. The Tiger Brigade look like the seven samourai who try to save a small village in the middlle of nowhere. And you teach us what is a tiger, clever and powerful like the elefant in Africa.
    Thank you for this narration.
    My best whishes for your next book.
    Dominique Reymond

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