Rory Nugent is an explorer, but not the usual kind. His work takes inventory of the more neglected shelves in the communal warehouse, those stacks riddled with deep shadows due to traditions, cultures and ideas gone missing and about to go missing. He has published numerous newspaper and magazine stories around the world, along with three books: DOWN AT THE DOCKS (Pantheon Books, 2009); DRUMS ALONG THE CONGO (Houghton-Mifflin, 1993)and THE SEARCH FOR THE PINK-HEADED DUCK (Houghton-Mifflin, 1991
Nugent was born in new York. He graduated from Williams college (1975)and went to sea aboard freighters and canvas-fliers. He made his bones early on, in 1976, as the youngest American competitor in the London Observer Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race. Although he finished out of the money, he stayed in the game and went on to make 4 1/2 solo ocean voyages. The fraction includes his shipwreck aboard his racer Godiva Chocolates by a rogue wave smack dab in the middle of the drink. He was rescued five days later and 28 pounds lighter.
Not wanting to swim anymore, he took to field research and writing, specializing in identifying and tracking down some of nature's rarest numinous wonders before they were lost to map and mind. His search took him down great rivers (Nile, Uele/Ubangi, Sobat, Brahmaputra) and innumerable small streams, and it included treks through the clouds (Himalayas, Anti-Atlas Mountains) and across deserts (Sahara and Gobi). Along the way, he followed the trail of the world's rarest duck (India's Pink-Headed Duck) and Africa's dino (the Congo's bronto, Mokele-Mbembe). Some of his findings appeared as stories in periodicals, as well as in his first two books.
In the early 1990s, after two decades spent chasing after the communal dream, he began working full-time as a journalist. His beat: the nightmare. His quest: those missing elements allowing it to prosper. For twelve years, as a staff writer for Spin Magazine and freelancer,he tracked nitwit generals and their lousy wars in Europe, Africa and Asia. During that time, he lived with terrorists of one stripe or another and became intimate with the prophets of intolerance. His field reports merited routine inclusion on short-lists for journalism awards and some remain standards, like his work on the IRA (1993-6) and dispatches from inside the wheelhouse of radical Islam (1994-5) as the officer corps drew the maps for the course ahead.
After an assignment in Iraq and Iran, 2001-2, Nugent left the gloom and redirected his attention to America. The result: DOWN AT THE DOCKS, which made the list of the Best Books of the year put out by the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Providence Journal, Minneapolis Star, among plenty of others. He is now at work on a new book
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