“Backcountry: A Novel” by James W. Clarke — Credit: Photo courtesy of James W. Clarke

Photo courtesy of James W. Clarke

To research “Backcountry: A Novel,” James W. Clarke trekked through Glacier National Park in Montana, sometimes hiking 10 to 18 miles at a time.

“Two of my favorite places are the desert Southwest and the Northern Rockies, and I wanted to write a book about something that happened in both those places,” said Clarke, 77, a retired, distinguished professor of political science at the University of Arizona.

For more than 30 years he has spent his summers hiking through the Montana park.

With five scholarly books on criminal violence behind him, “Backcountry,” his first novel, is a thriller that relies heavily on his experiences in those woods.

Inspiration for another of Clarke’s books, “Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison” came from a family camping trip years ago. Clarke, his wife and son unknowingly spent the night in the back of a pickup truck about 300 yards away from serial killer and prison escapee  Tison, Clarke said.

After realizing the close call, Clarke decided to write a true crime book. The film rights have been sold, he said.

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at jwillett@azstarnet.com or 573-4357.

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