The Last Great Book Tour

On the twisted road with Dean King.

Roosevelt and Muir on horseback in Yosemite.

Good old-fashioned book tours seem to have gone the way of the dodo, with publishers having deemed them not enough bang for the buck these days. But after five long years of work on my latest book—combined with pandemic disruptions such as postponed research trips and supply chain delays (remember those?) at the printer—Guardians of the Valley: John Muir and the Friendship That Saved Yosemite finally made its debut last spring. It was time to celebrate—and take Muir’s inspiring message on the road. The tour you see mapped out here came together by hook or by crook and with the massive support of family and friends.

“Dean King’s poetry is a match for Muir’s. …We see through this book the immense power of language to sway, the ability for selectively chosen words to convey awe and power, resentment and raw anger, to change the minds of lawmakers and tourists alike. To effectively draw strength from Muir’s writing, as King suggests we do, we might reconsider which stories are told around the campfire.” —The New York Times Book Review

No better place to start, however, than right here at home—Broad Street, RVA—with a kick-off literary gala at Gordon Stettinius’ vibrant Candela Gallery. Three Notch’d Brewing provided a hand-crafted Guardians of the Valley IPA, made with water I brought back from Yosemite’s Soda Springs, where John Muir and his editor Robert Underwood Johnson, the subjects of my book, drank bubbly water as they formulated their plan to create the national park. RVA author Chip Jones (Organ Thieves) and his improv band, Friends of Dean, jammed gospel and bluegrass, while James McLaughlin (Panther Gap) and Ron Smith (That Beauty in the Trees: Poems) signed their new books with me. Two hundred personally inscribed copies of Guardians entered the world that night in what seemed like to me one joyous blink of the eye.

Over the next nine months, I crisscrossed the country hitting 30 cities in 12 states, including speaking to the congregations of two fellow Tar Heels (turned church rectors) in Raleigh and Houston; presenting at book festivals in San Antonio, Berkeley, California, and Jackson, Mississippi; and regaling a slew of private clubs, book clubs, garden clubs, and house parties. Most unforgettable of all, perhaps, was the luncheon at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. (See #9 on map.)

The craziest back-to-back-to-back turnaround: The morning after a dinner talk at Mashomack Preserve in Pine Plains, New York (#8), I flew to RVA to dance and sign at Kevin and Kate O’Hagans’ Earth Day book bash. Twelve hours later, it was back to NYC to appear on Fox & Friends to promote The Real Hatfields & McCoys: Forever Feuding, a TV series based on my previous book, The Feud. Back in Richmond a day later, I sat for an interview with Radio France International, spoke to a Rotary Club chapter, and then drove to Washington, D.C., to check into the aforementioned Cosmos Club.

Illustration by Victoria Borges


March 16: Richmond Times-Dispatch interview with Bill Lohmann. 

2. Carolina on my mind

March 19: Raleigh—Talk + Sign at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. 

Signing at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh and McIntyre’s Books at Fearrington Village, Pittsboro. 

3. The Bomb drops

March 21: Scribner launches Guardians of the Valley. Oddly quiet morning until my wife, Jessica, checks The New York Times and finds a review. It’s the bomb.

4. All about River city

March 22: Commonwealth Club Public Affairs Lunch.

March 23: “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” Book Launch Party with Fountain Bookstore at Candela. 

March 24: Wine & Sign, hosted by Style Weekly founder Lorna Wyckoff.

5. Libations

March 5: Scotch flows freely at the Burns Club of Atlanta at the Burns Cottage, a 1911 replica of Robert Burns’ birthplace

6. BIG TALK In Big T

April 12: Houston—Talk + Sign at the Church of St. John the Divine in River Oaks. 

April 13: Breakfast Club at River Oaks Country Club. Fly to San Antonio. 

April 14-15: San Antonio—Book Festival, live interview on Great Day SA (CBS). Special guest at a private luncheon. “The Birth of American Conservation” fireside chat at Central Public Library, recorded for C-Span Book TV.


April 18: Darien Library Earth Day Talk + Sign.

April 19: NYC—University Club Author Talk + Dinner.

April 20: Private dinner talk at The Leash, an Upper East Side hunting and fishing club.

8. Up and back 

April 21: Pine Plains, New York—The Mashomack Preserve, a private hunt club and nature conservancy, Talk + Dinner.

April 22: RVA—Book Party & Earth Day celebration with Guardians IPA and live music from the Balsa Gliders.  

April 23-24: Fly to NYC—Appear next morning on the couch with Ainsley and Brian on Fox & Friends.

April 25: Back to RVA—Interview with Radio France International and Rotary Club lunch talk at Willow Oaks Country Club. Drive to Washington, D.C.


April 26: Washington D.C.—Lunch + Talk at the Cosmos Club. Sit with a past president of the Sierra Club and American Heritage editor, Ed Grosvenor, who tells me Guardians will appear on the cover of his magazine. Amazingly, over the fireplace hangs the Thomas Hill painting that Muir tried in vain to find to run with his story on Yosemite Valley in Century Magazine

April 27: Talk + Lunch at The Metropolitan Club and a Talk + Sign at cozy Bluebird bookstore in Crozet.

10. Go West, Young Man

Three weeks ricocheting around California, Oregon, and Washington

April 30-May 1: Fly to San Francisco—Drive to Stockton for a University of the Pacific talk for the Holt-Atherton Special Collections & Archives, home of the John Muir archives. Guardians enters Muir exhibit. 

May 4: San Francisco—Sign books at Green Apple, the Booksmith, and City Lights Booksellers. Bookshop West Portal Talk + Sign. 

May 5: San Francisco—Interview with History of California podcast.

May 6: Corte Madera—Book Passage Talk + Sign. The Wall Street Journal runs my story “Five Best: Books on the Great Outdoors.”

May 7: Berkeley—Bay Area Book Festival, “Preserving Our Public Lands” panel.

May 9: Fly to Portland, Oregon—Powell’s Books Talk + Sign in Beaverton.

May 10-11: Drive to Seattle—Sign books at University Book Store, Madison Books, Elliot Bay Book Company, and speak at Third Place Books.

May 12-13: Fly to Sacramento—Drive to Sonoma for fireside chat at Wing & Barrel Ranch, a private sporting club. 

May 15-16: Drive back to Sacramento, and fly to L.A.—Zoom with Oscar-winning screenwriter. Attend a Jonathan Club Author Breakfast. Meet big producer at Blackwood Coffee on Sunset Blvd. Lunch with movie agent at Superba. Speak at Jonathan Club breakfast. Talk + Sign at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.

May 17: L.A.—Luncheon lecture at the California Club. Race to Del Mar for evening Talk + Sign at Diesel, A Bookstore.

May 19: L.A.—A&E History This Week Podcast interview with Julia Press.

11. Swinging South

Aug. 18: Jackson—Participate on environmental panel at Mississippi Book Festival. 

12. Hanging Close to Home

Oct. 1: Lexington—Cocktail talk and gala dinner at The Georges. 

Oct. 7-8: RVA—Teach master class on nature writing at James River Writers Conference with author Logan Ward and Virginia Living writer Caroline Kettlewell.

Oct. 21: Stratford Hall—Lee Circle address followed by dinner + dancing.

Oct. 22: Belle Isle State Park—Talk + Sign.

13. Back to Texas 

Nov. 28: Houston—Talk + Tea for Town & Country Garden Club at my sister Meg Murray’s house in River Oaks.

14: Ho-Ho-Ho HOlidays

Dec. 10: Richmond—Shelf Life’s 10th annual RVA holiday BrewHoHo, at Afterglow Coffee Cooperative, signing alongside fellow Virginia authors S.A. Cosby, Rachel Beanland, Howard Owen, and Ryan Kent.

Other tour Highlights:

March 28: From my desk—virtual event with Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT.

March 30: Book + Brew launch party with James River Writers and Three Notch’d Brewing Co. 

Oct. 20: Chapel Hill—Rotary Club Lunch Talk + Book Bash with UNC pals hosted by Logan and Heather Ward.

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum