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The Dinosaur Artist

The Dinosaur Artist

Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth¿s Ultimate Trophy

New Yorker staff writer Paige Williams delves into the riveting and sometimes perilous world of the international fossil trade through the true story of one man’s devastating attempt to sell a Gobi Desert dinosaur skeleton from Mongolia, a nation that forbids trafficking in natural history.

The first time Eric Prokopi saw T. bataar bones he was impressed. The enormous skull and teeth betrayed the apex predator’s close relation to the storied Tyrannosaurus rex, the most famous animal that ever lived. Prokopi’s obsession with fossils had begun decades earlier, when he was a Florida boy scouring for shark teeth and Ice Age remnants, and it had continued as he built a thriving business hunting, preparing, and selling specimens to avid collectors and private museums around the world. To scientists’ fury and dismay, there was big money to be made in certain corners of the fossil trade. Prokopi didn’t consider himself merely a businessman, though. He also thought of himself as a vital part of paleontology–as one of the lesser-known artistic links in bringing prehistoric creatures back to life–and saw nothing wrong with turning a profit in the process.

Bone hunting was expensive, risky, controversial work, and he increasingly needed bigger “scores.” By the time he acquired a largely complete skeleton of T. bataar and restored it in his workshop, he was highly leveraged and drawing quiet scorn from peers who worried that by bringing such a big, beautiful Mongolian dinosaur to market he would tarnish the entire trade. Presenting the skeleton for sale at a major auction house in New York City, he was relieved to see the bidding start at nearly $1 million–only to fall apart when the president of Mongolia unexpectedly stepped in to question the specimen’s origins and demand its return. An international custody battle ensued, shining new light on the black market for dinosaur fossils, the angst of scientists who fear for their field, and the precarious political tensions in post-Communist Mongolia. The Prokopi case, unprecedented in American jurisprudence, continues to reverberate throughout the intersecting worlds of paleontology, museums, art, and geopolitics.

In this gorgeous nonfiction debut, Williams uncovers an untold story that spans continents, cultures, and millennia as she grapples with the questions of who we are, how we got here, and who, ultimately, owns the past.
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Genre: Nonfiction / Science / Paleontology

On Sale: September 11th 2018

Price: $14.99 / $18.99 (CDN)

Page Count: 320

ISBN-13: 9780316382502

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reader reviews

Praise

"Paige Williams is that rare reporter who burrows into a subject until all of its dimensions, all of its darkened corners and secret chambers, are illuminated. With The Dinosaur Artist, she has done more than reveal a gripping true crime story; she has cast light on everything from obsessive fossil hunters to how the earth evolved. This is a tremendous book."—David Grann, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon
"The Dinosaur Artist is a breathtaking feat of writing and reporting: a strange, irresistible, and beautifully written story steeped in natural history, human nature, commerce, crime, science, and politics. It's at once laugh-out-loud funny and deeply sobering. I was blown away by the depth of its characters, its vivid details, and Paige Williams' incredible command of the facts. Bottom line: this is an extraordinary debut by one of the best nonfiction writers we've got."—Rebecca Skloot, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
"The Dinosaur Artist is a tale that has everything: passion, science, politics, intrigue, and, of course, dinosaurs. Paige Williams is a wonderful storyteller."—Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction
"What a terrific book. A fascinating story of adventure and obsession, and a captivating journey into the world of fossils and fossil peddlers, scientists, museums, international politics, the history of life, and the nature of human nature. Williams writes beautifully about it all. If you love dinosaurs, paleontology, or just a rollicking good tale, you will love this book. I couldn't put it down."—Jennifer Ackerman, New York Times bestselling author of The Genius of Birds
"A cracking combination of true crime, dinosaurs, and top-notch investigative journalism. Paige Williams' riveting tale exposes the dodgy dealings of the black market trade in dinosaurs, an international underworld that that few people have probably heard of, and which breaks my heart as a paleontologist."—Steve Brusatte, bestselling author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs
"The Dinosaur Artist is a triumph. With peerless prose and sharp-eyed reporting, Paige Williams weaves a story that, even as it spans continents and transcends geological epochs, is deeply anchored in the passion and hubris of a rich cast of characters. Captivating, funny, and profound, it is easily one of the strongest works of non-fiction in years."—Ed Yong, staff writer, The Atlantic; New York Times bestselling author of I Contain Multitudes
"Paige Williams is as deft as the fossil hunters and skeleton builders she writes about. As they exhume treasures secreted in earthen repositories and assemble brilliant mounts from a scattering of dinosaur bones, she mines exquisite details from a quarry of source materials and pieces together a compelling story out of a spillage of human experience. The result is a work of art."—Jack E. Davis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Gulf
"I am in awe of Paige Williams. Every line of The Dinosaur Artist--from her deeply informed discussions of paleontology and the law to her often withering and hilarious descriptions--was a pleasure to read. Few nonfiction writers are capable of mining their characters with such a winning blend of sympathy, wonder, and rigor."—Liza Mundy, New York Times bestselling author of Michelle and Code Girls