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Monday, December 17, 2012

Ranger Magazine Review of Unleashing Colter's Hell

Reprinted from Ranger magazine, Winter 2012-13, with permission from the Association of National Park Rangers,

Unleashing Colter’s Hell: A National Park Thriller

Sean Smith. Create Space, August 2012. ISBN: 13-978-1479109650, 313 pages. $9.99, paperback, Amazon

Reviewed by Rick Smith
Ever since 9/11, protection rangers from areas such as Olympic, Yellowstone and Big Bend have been sent to guard the icons of the National Park System — Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty and others every time there is a perceived eminent threat to the nation’s security.

What if the target was Yellowstone with its 2.25 million acres sitting on top of one of the most active thermal areas in the world? That is the premise of former Yellowstone ranger Sean Smith’s book. Would it be possible to trigger a strong enough earthquake to cause the super volcano to erupt? And who would be mad enough to try it and where would they get the trigger? And where does the owner of Yellowstone’s major concessioner fit in?

These are just some of the questions that face Yellowstone ranger Grayson Cole and his reluctant partner, rookie FBI agent Diane Harris, as they unravel an intriguing set of circumstances that occur in the mother park. I say that Harris is reluctant because she thinks being sent on this assignment is like what another generation of NPS employees used to say about being sent to Tuzigoot if they screwed up. (It wasn’t true, of course, as Tuzigoot is a fascinating site. I think it was the name that generated the saying.) But as the coincidences pile up, Harris begins to see, as does Cole, that this is no peaceful walk in the park, but a deadly serious situation.

I am not going to say much more about the plot as I don’t want to spoil it for the readers of

Ranger who may wish to purchase the book. I enjoyed the book, although the parts that dealt with the Washington political inside scene dragged a bit for me. However, when the scene switched to Yellowstone, the pace of the book picked up. Cole talks and acts like a ranger and Harris is just enough of a city person to counterbalance Cole’s experience in the park. Their encounter with a grizzly while in the backcountry seemed real to me.

I hope Ranger readers will buy this book.  It entertained me for the week it took me to read it.
Rick Smith, a life member and former president of ANPR and the International Ranger Federation, retired from the National Park Service after a 31-year career. His last position was as associate regional director of resources management in the former Southwest Region. He then served as acting superintendent of Yellowstone. He lives in New Mexico and Arizona.

Get a copy of the novel here.

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