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tv   The Best Land Under Heaven  CSPAN  July 9, 2017 12:30am-1:31am EDT

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pulitzer prize finalist explores her family's exile from latvia and her journey of among the living and the dead. also been casket looks at the life and influence of is really prime minister, benjamin -- alexander kleinberg for strategic studies reports on how the internet is being used on the internet for warfare on the darkening web. ball professor and former prosecutor, paul butler examines the policing of blackman in his new book, chokehold. look for titles this week and authors in the near future and c-span2
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>> now you are part of this. , thank you so much for coming tonight. i'm jeff martin with book smart and magic city books. before we begin i want to say thank you to the tulsa historical society for hosting us. a big round of applause. [applause] lived on great partnerships over the years and helped many more in the future. how many of you is this your first time here? that's a great sign. those of you raised your hand please come back and visit this place. those of you did not raise your hand know what a special place us is in our community
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>> it's a treat to have a mealw. to hear these wild stories about his useful misadventures in new mexico and writing about these great characters and bring them to life. many of you have read many of michael's books before. we have heard about this donner party book. it's been many years in the making. you say what are you working on an we say well when is it coming, when is the book coming. we know that such a fascinating topic in the hands of a talented writer is going to be something quite special. excited to have them here tonight. you'll have the opportunity to ask questions. the reason the microphone is right here is whether you knew it or not you're on national television right now. we have c-span book to be right
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behind us. >> that's and basically just ask. were thrilled that book tv here with us tonight. having a huge crowd here too. sometimes you go to a book signing
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>> was given a big welcome to michael lawless. [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] >> uas have to be marketing. [laughter] good evening. my friends and fellow
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lovers >> just the mere thought of cannibalism brings a perfect messages. beastie lg is one of the great
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cultural taboos. and when people hear the words the donner party, cannibalism is predictably the first thing that comes to the mind. as most people if they have heard of the donner party and if they have they invariably reply was something like, the donner party, weren't those the pioneers who get trapped in the blizzard mountains and ended up eating each other?
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>> later you would call it they. and indeed it was. not all of those decisions proved wise. america was changing from a struggling new nation into the new only on the block. the subornation of texas was annexed there before and became a slave state. america wanted more. present-day california, arizona, new mexico and try mexico and of utah, so the nation led by james polk known to be single-minded the purpose of acquiring the west went to war with mexico. before it ended the united states less 2000 men in action and 12000 more to disease. but they got all that land. some political leaders such as the young abraham lincoln in the
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congressman from illinois and the friend of the donner party believe the content of the country's national character was changed and for the worse. but some of lincoln's acquaintances did not share those feelings. as more than 1 million starving refugees frousan ofands americans experienced a different sort of hunger. there is was an appetite for lands, an opportunity, a wave of people including the band of citizens who were eager to become part of what they thought would be a grand adventure. the donner party's collective dream morphed into a collective my nightmare. because of poor timing, terrible
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joy h r ta destination. after becoming snowbound in the mountains near the border of present-day nevada and california, the party soon ran out of food. ultimately resorted to feeding off the flesh of their dead companions and family members in order to survive. again, it is this aspect of the donner party story that makes it grotesquely fascinating and one of the most haunting to come out of the west and white still looms large in american folklore. the donner party's faith while chasing their golden fantasy continental dream that it was spotted by manifest destiny.
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now becomes a metaphor and a microcosm which was busily consuming other nations. that meant we have the potential this is a gothic tale. the jaws a real parallel between individuals consuming flash and the desire of a country to consume the continent. truth, this party of pioneers became victims of their own ambitions. there are many reasons why this story of the donner party is a tale of tragedy and misfortune. one explanation mostly ignored is the fact that the members of this ill-fated group lost all
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notion of their sense of place. like the multitudes that soon follow their path, the donner party believe that the west would soon become the most american part of america. that is to say, the part the part where those features that distinguish america from europe comes out into the strongest relief. decades after the drama british historian laura james bryce observed, the west may be called the most distinctly american part of america because the points in which it differs from the east high the points in which america as a whole first from europe. that statement perfectly fits the members of the donner party. yet, the perhaps wallace stegner said it best.
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no places a place until things that have happened in it are remembered in history, ballots, yards, legends, monuments, history was part of the baggage we threw overboard when we launch ourselves and the new world. we threw it away because it recalled old to your knees, old limitations, obligatio obligatid bloodied memories. plunging into the future to a landscape that had not history, we did the country and ourselves some harm along with the good. personal motives of the immigrants varied. some plan to build permanent homes or farms, others hope to enhance their fortunes and returnees. for the younger single menu so the journey into the unknown as
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the adventure of a lifetime. the bulk of the donner party was comprised of people of their fathers to dwell in the land of the land they sincerely believe their children were destined to inherit. they lived in the future and make their country as they go along. people continue to ignore what they actually said there's more to the story than the often told and misinterpreted tales of deaths their legend is so long and complex story of how group of people from varied backgrounds they headed west
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following their different dreams. out of necessity they were made to unite and battle against the unknown. whether, nature, and finally life-and-death. a winter storm, the likes of which had never been seen when the been successful. as it happened it became a lesson of what can happen when everything goes wrong. and it unforgettable calamity. the story becomes one of courage, madness love and hate and pursuing what they came to be known as the american dream. sometimes nightmares
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>> they are very bright people, as varied as their ancestors and they all possess a great sense of humor. which i think is sometimes necessary. the first spoonful comes early in the story from a chapter entitled queen city of the trails. may 10 through 12th 1846. on may 10 the donna reed wagons
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rode into the bustling jackson county seat of independence, missouri. it was the sabbath and no doubt prayers of thanksgiving were race. after 25 days of travel they arrived at the place they believe their grand adventure would start. beginning with the lewis and clark they paid key role. st. charles, st. joseph they also became popular starting points of immigrants who settled the great expanse between missouri and the pacific. yeah, independence deserve special credit for missouri having earned -- i have my own
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do drag right here. i'm like a politician that just rolls off. [laughter] no more interruptions. it was a matter of geography founded in 1827, few miles from the south bank of the missouri river at the farthest point where steamboats can navigate, independence became the epicenter of western migration. typically wagon trains didn't leave until the middle of may when there's enough green grass to provide pasture for draft animals. the original townsite was for three principal trails. the santa fe, oregon and california. that's why independence had all
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its own. queen city of the trail. chief among the caravan supporters was james maxey, james reads masonic brother who ran a general store in independence. his business partner william s stone were delighted to sell fresh goods to familiar faces. relator noted that maxey and stone treated us as if we are brothers. when the caravans reach the public square the immigrants were astounded to find what they beheld. they were assaulted by the smells of toiling men and overworked beast, freshman newark, tobacco and wood smoke and many aromas they cannot place.
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teams of people with languages, german, and i tell you various indian languages including osage, choctaw and chickasaw. the town of independence was at this time a great battle upon the border of the wilderness was how the immigrant described independence in may, 1846. thornton and his wife are eager to leave so soon to become oregon territory. they had been practicing law and adding a newspaper. because of their staunch abolitionist views, they left proslavery missouri in 1841 and moved across to quincy, illinois where he continued his work as a lawyer.
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they maintained a close friendship with senator thomas benton was stephen douglas, former conrad and political rival after they left springfield, thornton and his wife and two young hired men to handle their wagons. most of the immigrants had departed thornton wrote in his trail diary. some were assembled at indian creek, a few were in this place not yet prepared to depart. among these i became acquainted with james reed, george donner and jacob donner. together with their wives and families all through the
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neighborhood of springfield, illinois and all proposed to go to california. thornton told the donner brothers and read that he was waiting for a few other immigrants to arrive and expected to move out within the hour. . .
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>> >> and those travelers who dared to venture from the l.a. and. by sunrays -- sunrise the camp was stirring bidding the mother and sister farewell they had ridden with the company all the way to springfield but now it is almost time for them to go home they would ride with the wagons bin hedy's to illinois the departure of
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independence was in place into the memory of many members of the party. as we drove up main street they weighed down light-hearted good buying and as we approached the building the agent came to our way again and put in to the hands of each child a testament to gave each adult a bible and those to distribute among then he bins of the lands of which we were going to the outskirts of town the parted from william with alaskan independence to turn our back to the morning sun and to become pioneers of the far west. much later in october in a
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chapter called snowbound november 1846 death no longer startled the party now it tracked them from the gulf of alaska by mountains and forest and glaciers that would spill onto the coastal plains as low pressure strengthened the said debt -- the jet stream will go south macleod's and the storm would punch to the east cascading with the coastal ranges as the moist air in the clouds would rise over the sierras the temperature below freezing changing the moisture that
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would harden into crystals and turning into snowflakes in the tempest into heaviest snowfalls one would have made crossing over challenging but that was not the case in the autumn of 1946 a large snowstorm struck this year is it another wine suit -- soon followed so each storm brought a huge snow fall and then to approach truckee lake later named it donner make to called the gem of the sierra it was slightly
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less than 3 miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide. with the snow melted and creeks it was at the foot of the eastern flank of the sierras in the most critical massive walls of the granite boulders. to enter the promised land they had to rescind more than 7,000 feet crevasse the remnants of an early snowfall remain it was confident would not last they knew after a few days it always melted and tell the next door.
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but it was not the same time in the high sierra where would come in rapid succession and they come with a vengeance and finally i will conclude with the prologue donner lake 1918 and the unseasonably hot there's dave morning below the crest of the sierra nevada truckee california and then of that ceremony of said tower of granite monument. that would be crossed before going into the future
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sitting atop a 22-foot tall pedestal the same height from 1846. they came as silently as a serial killer. and those that commonly became called the donner party. in those that would rise around donner lake although not as stated in reports many believe to help restore the name and the reputation of those who perished than survive that terrible winter siege but that audience of dignitaries and visitors now
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and maybe a billion and - - and building a monument to the pioneers across the plains to settle in california. bay and music of the golden west followed by the speeches of the governors of california and nevada. but when two young girls dressed in white from the grand statue -- oh the monument is the guest of honor three women wearing there sunday best and they are survivors. and then fighting tuesday alive they huddle together
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day after day or week after week while the snow kept coming. they were here with no more forces to each they were there they devoured mice and chewed on the hyde and the pine cone then they ate their pet dogs. and cutting flesh from the dead now they are back representing the eight remaining survivors to gays far beyond the crowd and then to poke out of the bedrock and then to see the
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meadows and that remains deep in the earth but they do not cry. and as they grow into women to get married and have children and grandchildren. and they learn to listen to the coast. as the crowd cheers francis slides her hands into the pocket of her coach to feel the crackers and peppermint and it's always carried morsels of food from the day she was rescued so many years ago. to squeeze the of hard candy tight in her fist and smiles. [applause]
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[inaudible] >> good afternoon i just want to ask if you could give some insight how you
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conduct did your research?. >> this is generally true for all my books but this one specifically so turning to the known research which is the archives were the treasure troves anything from yale to a california and of course, any more because of the internet that makes it much easier because now those files i used to have to go physically but it is a lot of work hand tedious and a lot of searching but then what i
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always do in writing these books in figures of history i did this with billy the kid to rediscover route 66 so with this that is the buried treasure that i knew was out there. it is always out there but you have to be diligent so right off the bat i went to the family and i sought out the descendants of the
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donner family and i could find that native of springfield and his name was george donner he is of it crusty and curmudgeon to end a type of raised eyebrows type of thing ended just as i did with pretty boy that i am all about telling the truth were the true story and the chips will fall where they may so we spent a lot of time with bill and that opened up the reservoir of material that they
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already existed with a great piece is the diaries and correspondence but to get into the family so close was important but then i always have to go to where they have traveled. so i already knew about the donner trail from the lincoln highway from times square to the golden gate so i already as walked in a lot
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of places that we went back again so the interesting part of that story is a mention three moments and one was everybody assumed that donner went down to st. louis but that was not true it took a little bit of digging but they crossed the mississippi to hannibal misery. three blocks from where they landed they young mark twain
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was is dreaming of the west so does that pat down across the missouri so we were on that late on the dark and stormy night the two of us don't sing-along in the car and we had so recently with some unbelievable thunderstorms on the two-lane road and we could nazi anything. it was just remarkably bad. and finally ultimately i could not help but think
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what that trip would have been like with a canvas covered wagon to of children and older people with herds of cattle and how difficult that might have been but then jump forward across nebraska you will read about their experiences so i had to put my hands of the water to put the pool of water to see what it was like because
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the donner just missed the sandhill crane migration that is a good thing for the cranes. [laughter] because they were open game back and. -- then they were just eager to start killing of bison. but then a few weeks later when they had nothing to eat . so then going to all the weeds and believe there redwing black birds but on the way back to the motel
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where the bodies were covered with tax and chiggers. it was just awful. [laughter] but where were we going? but then going back with a hot shower and and i state and the saudis are the things. learned horrible i.c.e. storm hit us a few years ago when we lived in the plaza which is a little building we were like a ruined ship and then to bring back a sense of community and with
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those candlelight dinners. and every time it got dark at night and then i get very depressed and i thought to myself this is how my grandparents lived. so that experience is more then you need to know. >> good evening.
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so what was about this topic ?. >> so the major failing is the subject had been written about just like billy the kid but it had not been told quite the way that i wanted. so from the beginning i saw a bigger picture that i mentioned to give ample examples but to tell that
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through the eyes of their experiences salicylates central in my mind so this was to unravel the mess. does that make sense?. >> you have done extensive research so how hard it is
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it to put the end? but in this case it was damn easy. [laughter] [applause] last week we celebrated our 35th anniversary. [applause] not bad for a guy married three times. [laughter] but i probably would not be celebrating my 36th of this went on any longer. [laughter] and there's times when it was difficult to say goodbye and not there really never
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says goodbye to his subjects and living over here and suzanne happen to be in that room the day that i wrote about francs death and atlantic city. i had been living with this guy from the frontier in nebraska and you get to know these people. so then suzanne looked at me and saw there were tears of guys.
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and said frank died didn't he? i said yes. so there are those moments and that is incredibly poignant so it is hard and it wasn't the donner party until they were way out west with the caribbean there are all kinds of things going on but i focus on the primary characters so the most compelling character it should have been called the read party.
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it was really only in name only. but those interesting figures. so when something tragic happened to affect my emotions but i was really glad when i finished. [laughter] [applause]
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>> dead just finished a book that led is banished of their demons and the first governor of montana and one that i would recommend. but one of my all-time favorite musicians over 40 years now also in the middle of the of fredericksburg campaign as a civil war book in the last one they tend to read this summer is the new gm crowe of criminal-justice
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reform. >> i have been the springsteen fan since 1978 and one of my first concerts' from thanksgiving eve 19801 of the best nights of my life my best friend that was killed and 9/11 replayed guitar together. so what went into shaping and molding that music i look forward to finishing that.


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