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The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy

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In 2012, a New York auction catalogue boasted an unusual offering: "a superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton." In fact, Lot 49135 consisted of a nearly complete T. bataar, a close cousin to the most famous animal that ever lived. The fossils now on display in a Manhattan event space had been unearthed in Mongolia, more than 6,000 miles away. At eight-feet high and 24 feet long, the In 2012, a New York auction catalogue boasted an unusual offering: "a superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton." In fact, Lot 49135 consisted of a nearly complete T. bataar, a close cousin to the most famous animal that ever lived. The fossils now on display in a Manhattan event space had been unearthed in Mongolia, more than 6,000 miles away. At eight-feet high and 24 feet long, the specimen was spectacular, and when the gavel sounded the winning bid was over $1 million. Eric Prokopi, a thirty-eight-year-old Floridian, was the man who had brought this extraordinary skeleton to market. A onetime swimmer who spent his teenage years diving for shark teeth, Prokopi's singular obsession with fossils fueled a thriving business hunting, preparing, and selling specimens, to clients ranging from natural history museums to avid private collectors like actor Leonardo DiCaprio. But there was a problem. This time, facing financial strain, had Prokopi gone too far? As the T. bataar went to auction, a network of paleontologists alerted the government of Mongolia to the eye-catching lot. As an international custody battle ensued, Prokopi watched as his own world unraveled.


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In 2012, a New York auction catalogue boasted an unusual offering: "a superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton." In fact, Lot 49135 consisted of a nearly complete T. bataar, a close cousin to the most famous animal that ever lived. The fossils now on display in a Manhattan event space had been unearthed in Mongolia, more than 6,000 miles away. At eight-feet high and 24 feet long, the In 2012, a New York auction catalogue boasted an unusual offering: "a superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton." In fact, Lot 49135 consisted of a nearly complete T. bataar, a close cousin to the most famous animal that ever lived. The fossils now on display in a Manhattan event space had been unearthed in Mongolia, more than 6,000 miles away. At eight-feet high and 24 feet long, the specimen was spectacular, and when the gavel sounded the winning bid was over $1 million. Eric Prokopi, a thirty-eight-year-old Floridian, was the man who had brought this extraordinary skeleton to market. A onetime swimmer who spent his teenage years diving for shark teeth, Prokopi's singular obsession with fossils fueled a thriving business hunting, preparing, and selling specimens, to clients ranging from natural history museums to avid private collectors like actor Leonardo DiCaprio. But there was a problem. This time, facing financial strain, had Prokopi gone too far? As the T. bataar went to auction, a network of paleontologists alerted the government of Mongolia to the eye-catching lot. As an international custody battle ensued, Prokopi watched as his own world unraveled.

30 review for The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bob Milne

    The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy wasn't quite the book I expected, but Paige Williams weaves an interesting exposé of the legal quagmire that is fossil collecting. As a dinosaur fanatic and amateur fossil hunter, I was fascinated - not to mention, a little bit terrified - by the consequences of collecting, transporting, and trafficking in fossils. It's so easy to pick up a brachiopod, a piece of horn coral, or even a trilobite, and think nothing The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy wasn't quite the book I expected, but Paige Williams weaves an interesting exposé of the legal quagmire that is fossil collecting. As a dinosaur fanatic and amateur fossil hunter, I was fascinated - not to mention, a little bit terrified - by the consequences of collecting, transporting, and trafficking in fossils. It's so easy to pick up a brachiopod, a piece of horn coral, or even a trilobite, and think nothing of the impact of that find, the potential loss of scientific value that comes in removing it from its context and setting. At the same time, it's just as easy to understand the counter-argument that, by collecting fossils, amateurs save them from erosion or destruction, and provide the world with a chance to appreciate them. Of course, when you look at all of that on a much larger scale - such as that of a Tyrannosaurus Bataar - it becomes a bit easier to understand why there has been so much drama around the auction and seizure of Eric Prokopi's 8-foot high, 24-foot long, million-dollar specimen. While that is the heart of the story, it drives the overall narrative than dominating it, which was both a surprise and a relief. As a human-interest figure, Prokopi is just not that compelling, and it's hard to become emotionally involved in his struggles. We can appreciate the situation, and understand the impact to his family, but I didn't find his story evoked the kind of sympathy that would have transformed him into a tragic figure. Where the human element comes through the strongest is in the backstories of surrounding the case, both historical and contemporary. I had no idea the fossil trade was such a massive community, full of such colorful (and, yes, criminal) characters. The history of the trade, with the establishment of Natural History collections across the world, was perhaps the most interesting part of the book, especially in the chapter devoted to Mary Anning. Her story is one that's always fascinated me, and Williams does a superb job of . . . well, presenting her in context and setting, much like a proper fossil discovery. Fast forward to contemporary times, as much as I might identify with Prokopi's passion for fossils, I found I sympathized more with the passion and patriotism of Bolor and Oyuna, with surprised me. Where that human element is somewhat buried, almost lost in the details, is with the criminal case itself. I was expecting that to be the focus of the book, to read about arguments and counterarguments . . . the testimony, the charges, and the deals . . . the scandal and spectacle, if you will. Instead, it's presented as a shockingly dull, matter-of-fact sequence of events, more akin to fighting a parking ticket than arguing such a landmark case. I'm glad Williams didn't attempt to artificially sensationalize it, but I'm also a bit saddened that it wasn't more of a spectacle in real life. The interplay of discovery, science, ethics, passion, and international law is something that deserves to be discussed on a much broader scale. The Dinosaur Artist is compellingly readable, as accessible to those with a curiosity as it is satisfying to those with a passion, and does a fair job of raising questions and highlighting issues, without trying force a conclusion upon the reader. Definitely recommended. http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.com/2...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    As the aunt of 6 year old “future paleontologist”, I have learned a good deal about dinosaurs and fossils in the last couple years. I have been looking forward all summer to reading The Dinosaur Artist, a well-researched narrative journalistic book about the controversy surrounding a Florida man who prepared and auctioned a Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton from fossils unearthed in Mongolia. The book did not disappoint. While I learned a considerable amount about everything from fossil hunting to t As the aunt of 6 year old “future paleontologist”, I have learned a good deal about dinosaurs and fossils in the last couple years. I have been looking forward all summer to reading The Dinosaur Artist, a well-researched narrative journalistic book about the controversy surrounding a Florida man who prepared and auctioned a Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton from fossils unearthed in Mongolia. The book did not disappoint. While I learned a considerable amount about everything from fossil hunting to the history of Mongolia, I didn’t however come away with a clear-cut opinion about who ultimately owns the past as unearthed in fossils. It’s complicated. Amateur fossil hunters have much to contribute to our knowledge base but the scientific process and human history must also be taken in to consideration. I would have given this 5 stars but felt it got bogged down a little in the details of true crime style biography of rogue fossil artist Eric Prokopi. Thanks to NetGalley, Hatchette Books, and author Paige Williams for the advanced reader’s copy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Budman

    Williams is a marvelous writer of paragraphs, and even of chapters: She beautifully captures scenes and characters and issues and history, and her prose sparkles. Nearly any reader will be fascinated by the issues that The Dinosaur Artist raises. And yet the book doesn't quite hold together. Beginning with the title, the author seems to take New Yorker colleague Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief as a model, and a writer could do far, far worse. But Williams' central character and his story—as a fos Williams is a marvelous writer of paragraphs, and even of chapters: She beautifully captures scenes and characters and issues and history, and her prose sparkles. Nearly any reader will be fascinated by the issues that The Dinosaur Artist raises. And yet the book doesn't quite hold together. Beginning with the title, the author seems to take New Yorker colleague Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief as a model, and a writer could do far, far worse. But Williams' central character and his story—as a fossil collector and salesman who gets caught—simply isn't compelling enough to carry a book-length tale, and as a narrator she makes the decision to stay invisible, forgoing the option of actively guiding us from one scenario to the next. She makes Eric Prokopi a very real and sympathetic figure, but he and his case are too small to serve as scaffolding for a story on such a grand scale of geography and time. What's here—and much of it is great—is fantastic color and background, rich and detailed to the extent that they sometimes take us way off track. To cite just one example: To flesh out the reasons for decisions by the Mongolian government re: fossils, Williams presents basically the entire modern history of Mongolia, emphasizing post-Soviet political drama, and several colorful personalities. It's all compelling, and I knew none of it before, but it takes us far, far afield from the story of fossil recovery, much less issues of commercial fossil-hunting. It's almost a surprise when Prokopi—the dinosaur artist—re-enters the story. Hey, it's that guy again! So: Beautiful writing and diligent research that could have used a firmer hand in shaping.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The Dinosaur Hunter starts with controversy then maps the geography of the fossil landscape, from hunters to politics to jealousies and poachers. Williams covers the history of paleontology as well that of natural history museums. There’s even some celebrity sighting: a Cage/ DiCaprio fight over a 67-million-year-old skull of a Tyrannosaurus Bataar. The Dinosaur Artist is a memorable read with great tension over the timeless themes of the hunt, money, and greed. Full review can be found here: htt The Dinosaur Hunter starts with controversy then maps the geography of the fossil landscape, from hunters to politics to jealousies and poachers. Williams covers the history of paleontology as well that of natural history museums. There’s even some celebrity sighting: a Cage/ DiCaprio fight over a 67-million-year-old skull of a Tyrannosaurus Bataar. The Dinosaur Artist is a memorable read with great tension over the timeless themes of the hunt, money, and greed. Full review can be found here: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/08/11/th... All my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog

  5. 4 out of 5

    Scribe Publications

    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 beautiful 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 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 Henriette Lacks 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 rigour. Liza Mundy, New York Times Bestselling Author of Michelleand Code Girls Williams’ illuminating chronicle questions who has a right to nature. Booklist Prokopi’s case is a fascinating example of the pull of prehistoric fossils and the power of law. Nature enthusiasts, scientists, and politics buffs will sink their teeth into this intriguing account. Jeffrey Meyer, Library Journal New Yorker staff writer Williams uses the story of fossil enthusiast Eric Prokopi to illuminate the murky world of modern fossil hunting in this fascinating account ... a triumphant book that will appeal to a wide audience. Publishers Weekly A palaeontological page-turner … Williams has written a masterful book of suspense and true-crime that is as fair in the portrayal of its protagonists, as it is thorough in the context in which the story is situated. The Inquisitive Biologist Ms. Williams’s writing is often concise and evocative … gripping and cinematic. Richard Conniff, The Wall Street Journal An intriguing story of dinosaur smuggling … Good fun for fossil freaks. Kirkus

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lizz DiCesare

    Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I love dinosaurs, so when I received a copy of The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy, by Paige Williams, I was ecstatic. This book contained so many things that I like: dinosaurs, journalism, natural and political history; how could I not read it? This book evolved from an article that Paige wrote for The New Yorker, titled "Bones of Contention," which was published in 2013. It told the story of Eric Pro Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I love dinosaurs, so when I received a copy of The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy, by Paige Williams, I was ecstatic. This book contained so many things that I like: dinosaurs, journalism, natural and political history; how could I not read it? This book evolved from an article that Paige wrote for The New Yorker, titled "Bones of Contention," which was published in 2013. It told the story of Eric Prokopi, and his Tarbosaurus (T. bataar) skeleton that swept the media by storm. Why? Because he tried to sell it at an auction in the USA, only to have the Mongolian government demand it back. The Dinosaur Artist tells an incredibly compelling story about a niche black market: fossils. Paige did a deep-dive into this case, tore it apart, and put it back together again. Her narrative explains how Eric got into fossil hunting, and how he was able to make a living from it. She also explores the history of palaeontology, and the fine line between professional scientists and amateur fossil hunters (the latter making a sizeable number of discoveries, and helping museums and researchers push forward in their respective fields). One of the main questions posed throughout this book is "who owns natural history?" This question may seem tricky; as I mentioned, if you find a fossil on the ground, what's stopping you from keeping it? Well, a lot of laws are. Eric didn't know this when he was in Mongolia, but the Mongolian government considers everything on or under the ground to belong to the country. So finding fossils and bringing them back to the USA is illegal. However, at the time, there were very few regulations in place to police this. As a result, numerous Mongolian fossils were brought out of the country and sold. This stopped, though, after Eric's case. As a result of the case "law enforcement now had more insight into the illicit fossil trade." In fact, when Mongolia began repatriating fossils, private collectors (including Nicholas Cage and Leonardo DiCaprio) had to give up pieces of their collections. For real, I looked it up after finishing the book. The Dinosaur Artist is more than awesome dinosaur stories and facts; it's about scientific discoveries, international law, history, and that sense of curiosity that lives inside us all. When I first saw this book, I knew I had to read it, and I absolutely loved it. Thank you to the publisher for an electronic ARC of this book via NetGalley.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Did you have a dinosaur phase? If you’ve ever stared at a giant dino skeleton in a museum (or uh, watched Jurassic Park) and had your imagination piqued, think about cracking open THE DINOSAUR ARTIST by Paige Williams, out today from Hachette Books. In telling the story of a single fossil skeleton sale which turns wildly contentious, Williams gives sympathetic voice to all the stakeholders in the fossil hunting game: museums, academics, passionate fossil aficionados, natural history buffs, commer Did you have a dinosaur phase? If you’ve ever stared at a giant dino skeleton in a museum (or uh, watched Jurassic Park) and had your imagination piqued, think about cracking open THE DINOSAUR ARTIST by Paige Williams, out today from Hachette Books. In telling the story of a single fossil skeleton sale which turns wildly contentious, Williams gives sympathetic voice to all the stakeholders in the fossil hunting game: museums, academics, passionate fossil aficionados, natural history buffs, commercial traders, and all the affected sovereign governments around the world. You’re probably aware that fossil hunting exists, but have you ever considered who these long-dead creatures actually *belong* to? Who has rights to something that is, for all intents and purposes, a piece of the earth? Are they natural resources (fairly well-regulated)? Or cultural resources (less well-regulated)? Can falling inside a man-made border constrain an object that is from a time before humans even existed? I’ve been fascinated by dinosaurs for most of my life, but I’d never considered the complex social web that their remains exist in, and how all the threads in that web affect what we the public see, know, and learn about them. Williams does an excellent job of drawing out each of those threads for clarity, then weaving them back together in a compelling narrative that ensures you’ll never react the same way to an image of a T. Rex. While this book was *pretty specifically* up my alley, it’s also a broadly fascinating read. If you’re looking for some non-fiction that goes down easy and contains shades of Hollywood, crime, international intrigue, investigative reporting, and a cast of colorful real-life characters, check this sucker out. Thanks to @netgalley and @hachettebooks for the dARC!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Greg Richardson

    This book is a true tragedy. There's an awesome story to be told and, eventually, that story is told. There's just way too much extraneous information included in this book to make it worth recommending. To say that it moves slowly is to say that dinosaurs lived a long time ago. Just when you think you're getting somewhere and that you have the necessary background to appreciate the complexities of the story, you get taken back on yet another detour. I wondered if I was the only one who felt this This book is a true tragedy. There's an awesome story to be told and, eventually, that story is told. There's just way too much extraneous information included in this book to make it worth recommending. To say that it moves slowly is to say that dinosaurs lived a long time ago. Just when you think you're getting somewhere and that you have the necessary background to appreciate the complexities of the story, you get taken back on yet another detour. I wondered if I was the only one who felt this way, so I poked around a few places online and found this NPR review that says it more clearly than I ever could: "The book does have some flaws. It's as if Williams felt compelled to include every last thing she learned through her research, even beyond the 90 dense pages of footnotes. We don't need to know that Prokopi's mother-in law decorated her home at the holidays with "dense arrangements of aromatic greenery and gilded candlesticks." Even less relevant are weight-related comments: Mongolian activist Oyuna Tsedevdamba is "youthful and slim," and auction broker David Herskowitz walks with "his belly leading." "More disconcertingly, whenever the Tarbosaurus narrative gathers speed, Williams dumps in a sticky web of new names and facts to keep straight. At one point of real momentum, suddenly we're sent back to 1793 and the life of an English cabinetmaker named Richard Anning. His daughter Mary Anning, a highly skilled collector of invertebrate fossils around Lyme, England, is a compelling figure from the annals of women in science — but overall there are just too many of these jarring time jumps. The full review is here: https://www.npr.org/2018/09/13/647117.... Proceed at your own risk!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. I have always been fascinated with dinosaurs. This is a story of Eric Prokopi who was a fossil hunter and dealer. He started looking for fossils when he was just a kid, As he got older, he found there was big money to be made selling all manner of fossils.whether he found them or bought them from others. In the meantime,  paleontologists and scientists heard that Eric would be auctioning off a complete skeleton he had found in Mongolia. The Presiden When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. I have always been fascinated with dinosaurs. This is a story of Eric Prokopi who was a fossil hunter and dealer. He started looking for fossils when he was just a kid, As he got older, he found there was big money to be made selling all manner of fossils.whether he found them or bought them from others. In the meantime,  paleontologists and scientists heard that Eric would be auctioning off a complete skeleton he had found in Mongolia. The President of Mongolia was advised that the skeleton was being sold and that he needed to claim it for Mongolia. An attorney was hired to get the auction stopped until the ownership could be resolved.  Who owns the fossils, can they be sold to private citizens, should they stay in the country of origin? Endlessly fascinating. This book was extremely well researched and written. I received this book from Net Galley. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy . All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eloise Newman

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book on #paleodrama of T. Bataar and Mongolian dinosaurs. This book manages to tell a gripping real story as well as provide a solid layman’s history to the paleontologists behind it. Having just come back from a trip to Mongolia and UB I visited the Dinosaur Museum there. This book provided really honest flesh to the specimens there. The museum itself didn’t seem fit to house the fossils, the translations few and pitiful. I have been searching for books on Mongolian fo I thoroughly enjoyed this book on #paleodrama of T. Bataar and Mongolian dinosaurs. This book manages to tell a gripping real story as well as provide a solid layman’s history to the paleontologists behind it. Having just come back from a trip to Mongolia and UB I visited the Dinosaur Museum there. This book provided really honest flesh to the specimens there. The museum itself didn’t seem fit to house the fossils, the translations few and pitiful. I have been searching for books on Mongolian fossils and so glad to come across this gem. My greatest sadness with this book is the fact there is a lack of pictures to illustrate Williams’ point. If you like a good mystery, liked “The Orchid Thief”, give this a read!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The Dinosaur Artist is a nice work about, broadly, paleontology, dinosaur paleontology more specifically. It concentrates on the story of Eric Prokopi and the illicit trade in Mongolian dinosaur fossils. For me, the best part of the narrative was the section on Molly (Mary) Anning and her incredible contributions to science. She, untrained and minimally educated, discovered more fossil species along the southern coast of England than perhaps anyone, ever has, anywhere on earth. Paige Williams te The Dinosaur Artist is a nice work about, broadly, paleontology, dinosaur paleontology more specifically. It concentrates on the story of Eric Prokopi and the illicit trade in Mongolian dinosaur fossils. For me, the best part of the narrative was the section on Molly (Mary) Anning and her incredible contributions to science. She, untrained and minimally educated, discovered more fossil species along the southern coast of England than perhaps anyone, ever has, anywhere on earth. Paige Williams tells a fascinating tale, with humor and empathy.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nick Cincotta

    Absolutely riveting.... as I read it I became more fascinated with the personalities of the paleontologist Williams profiles. There are parts that made my jaw drop such as reading about Mark Norrell’s desk, it belonged to Barnum Brown, now that is just awesome. I couldn’t put it down I wanted to find out each aspect of the paleontologist/fossil hunters she was profiling. She did an excellent job of bringing the science to life and telling the layperson what paleontology is all about. Dinosaurs a Absolutely riveting.... as I read it I became more fascinated with the personalities of the paleontologist Williams profiles. There are parts that made my jaw drop such as reading about Mark Norrell’s desk, it belonged to Barnum Brown, now that is just awesome. I couldn’t put it down I wanted to find out each aspect of the paleontologist/fossil hunters she was profiling. She did an excellent job of bringing the science to life and telling the layperson what paleontology is all about. Dinosaurs are the gateway to science

  13. 5 out of 5

    Toni Olson

    What a fantastic and intriguing book! One of the best reads for fall 2018!

  14. 4 out of 5

    M.

    What an interesting story!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erin Duerr

    Great read for anyone interested in the science of paleontology, the business of fossils or is just looking for an entertaining narrative true story with a bit of intrigue.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    The world of fossil collecting is far more competitive and far less legal than I ever thought. Paige William’s new novel follows eponymous title artist Eric Prokopi from his humble Florida beginnings through to smuggling fossils out of Mongolia and attempting to sell them in New York for sums in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. It is when the lens focuses on Prokopi that the novel truly shines- there’s something faintly apocryphal about his origin story- he’s folksy, a champ The world of fossil collecting is far more competitive and far less legal than I ever thought. Paige William’s new novel follows eponymous title artist Eric Prokopi from his humble Florida beginnings through to smuggling fossils out of Mongolia and attempting to sell them in New York for sums in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. It is when the lens focuses on Prokopi that the novel truly shines- there’s something faintly apocryphal about his origin story- he’s folksy, a champion swimmer who marries the all-American beauty and then settles into a life of collecting fossils from Florida’s rivers and swamps. Williams does a deft job of handling how Prokopi gradually transforms from someone who takes joy in the hobby of fossil collection to someone who realizes the true extent of the profits he could reach, selling his work to celebs like Nicholas Cage. Interwoven into Prokopi’s story is the history of fossil hunting and paleontology itself, from Mary Anning to her more acknowledged male counterparts. Politics between paleontologists and ‘hobby’ fossil hunters like Prokopi also make up a bulk of the text, and it’s here it sometimes gets bogged down in the details. I fully acknowledge that in this I may have some privilege, having been interested in paleontology when I was younger and then being best friends with two paleo-bio majors during my undergrad. As such, none of the information was new to me, and the sheer density of it made the reading feel bogged down. It was only when I returned to Prokopi’s descent into illegal fossil peddling that I felt like the text was stretching forward at a good pace. Perhaps those with no background in the subject WILL find this interesting however, though I maintain that it is sometimes excessively dry, lacking the humor that surrounds the personal narrative at the heart of the book. Still, as an educational summer read, I think you could do far worse. I learned new things, which is really one of the biggest things you can garner from nonfiction, and I found myself almost in awe of the audacity of the hobby fossil hunters as they conducted their business. In my heart, I think I’m still a dinosaur girl, and this was enough to make me feel like a child again in all the best ways. Thank you to NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melise Gerber

    I received an advanced reading copy courtesy of Hachette and NetGalley. Thanks! This was a great read. The story of a man who was prosecuted for illegally selling a dinosaur skeleton that originated in Mongolia, Williams does a great job of explaining the history of paleontology and commercial fossil hunting, and the chain of events that led to the prosecution in this case. It was an engaging read, and I highly recommend it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    William Dury

    Eric Prokopi grew up in Florida. As a youngster he was a swimmer who developed an interest in fossils. He appears to have been a bright, ambitious, independent young man. He learned early that he could make money selling bones he found and that calling eventually became his adventurous, precarious, boom and bust livelihood. He met Amanda Graham when he was twenty-two, in 1996. They married and had two children. She was up the social ladder from him but drawn to his scientific-bohemian-entrepreneu Eric Prokopi grew up in Florida. As a youngster he was a swimmer who developed an interest in fossils. He appears to have been a bright, ambitious, independent young man. He learned early that he could make money selling bones he found and that calling eventually became his adventurous, precarious, boom and bust livelihood. He met Amanda Graham when he was twenty-two, in 1996. They married and had two children. She was up the social ladder from him but drawn to his scientific-bohemian-entrepreneurial nature. They lived well. They sold and mounted a Tabosaraus bataar skull for someone in California they thought to be Leonardo DiCaprio. They were $400,000 in debt when Eric flew to Mongolia in 2009 to hunt and buy fossils. The most promising find was a mainly complete Tarbosaraus bataar skeleton. (Think T. Rex eight feet tall, twenty four feet from nose to tail.). By Spring of 2012 it was ready for auction by Heritage auction house in New York City. Bidding only took 48 seconds and yielded $1,052,500. All well and good, except Mongolia cried foul and the United States Justice Department agreed. Eric didn’t get paid and eventually did a six month stretch for smuggling, Amanda left him and Mongolia got their dinosaur back. Well, better than back. The assemblage of a sixty five million year old skeleton requires some skill and improvisation. Eric had gotten bones from around the world and had to fabricate others. You have assemble a frame that the beast doesn’t tip over. Still, just because you added value doesn’t mean that you get to keep what you’ve stolen from someone else. Despite his setback Eric will likely turn out well. His skills are unique and seemingly in demand. (Nicholas Cage, Leonardo DiCaprio and Amy Mickelson, on behalf of Phil, are mentioned as enthusiasts. The buyer willing to pay over $1 million for the artifact in question was a lawyer). Eric was last seen heading down the coast from Virginia to Savannah in a red painted tug boat (their home)* with his assistant, Tyler, the young lady and ostensible cause of his rift with Amanda. I felt Amanda was actually relieved to be able to dump him with a clear conscience. She married a guy who already had four kids and was seemingly, inevitably, more stable. ———- *Eric’s probation office, being informed that Eric and Tyler planned to live on a tug boat reportedly said “Can’t you do anything normal?” Presumably the question was rhetorical.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Breanne Winkle

    I requested The Dinosaur Artist because I was that kid that watched Jurassic Park repeatedly and told my first grade teacher that I wanted to be a singer and a paleontologist. There was not a doubt in my mind that I was going to love this book. Unfortunately, it fell a bit flat for me. To be perfectly clear, I do not think this is a bad book or that you should not read it. I was just the wrong audience for this one. I studied museology and anthropology at university, which means that a lot of the I requested The Dinosaur Artist because I was that kid that watched Jurassic Park repeatedly and told my first grade teacher that I wanted to be a singer and a paleontologist. There was not a doubt in my mind that I was going to love this book. Unfortunately, it fell a bit flat for me. To be perfectly clear, I do not think this is a bad book or that you should not read it. I was just the wrong audience for this one. I studied museology and anthropology at university, which means that a lot of the information that Williams was presenting throughout the book I had prior knowledge of and found myself tending to skim more than actually wanting to read or being fully engaged. Who I think that this would be a great book for is someone that is beginning to get interested in paleontology and fossil hunting or maybe has not studied it extensively. Even individuals who have loved ones massively interested in the topic would benefit greatly from picking up this book. For those individuals there is a wealth of knowledge presented clearly in these pages and you would have a good foundation to move onto more complex reads. Originally posted on my blog: http://obsessivereadingreviews.blogsp...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susie Dumond

    Who "owns" fossils? Who has a right to search for, prepare, and sell pieces of history? In The Dinosaur Artist, Paige Williams does a fantastic job of taking an enormous topic and whittling it down to compelling narrative non-fiction. I knew nothing about the conflict between scientists and free-market fossil enthusiasts before reading this book and felt like it was a great introduction to the topic - as well as the history and politics of Mongolia. Williams balances the history with the drama a Who "owns" fossils? Who has a right to search for, prepare, and sell pieces of history? In The Dinosaur Artist, Paige Williams does a fantastic job of taking an enormous topic and whittling it down to compelling narrative non-fiction. I knew nothing about the conflict between scientists and free-market fossil enthusiasts before reading this book and felt like it was a great introduction to the topic - as well as the history and politics of Mongolia. Williams balances the history with the drama and the strange characters involved. If you're a fan of The Feather Thief or The Orchid Thief, you'll love this book. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    Very enjoyable book, along the lines of orchid thief. Through this one man’s story, you get introduced not only to the science of paleontology, but also to a world of international politics and a cast of passionate if sometimes morally questionable characters. The wife who works as an interior decorator on people’s yachts and questions people calling their lifestyle extravagant, so they bring friends to the Bahamas to celebrate sometimes, who doesn’ t, was a favorite of mine. The larger question Very enjoyable book, along the lines of orchid thief. Through this one man’s story, you get introduced not only to the science of paleontology, but also to a world of international politics and a cast of passionate if sometimes morally questionable characters. The wife who works as an interior decorator on people’s yachts and questions people calling their lifestyle extravagant, so they bring friends to the Bahamas to celebrate sometimes, who doesn’ t, was a favorite of mine. The larger question of who fossils “belong” to , and what place amateurs have in the process is also explored

  22. 4 out of 5

    Trashy Dreams

    Cool insight into the world of fossil hunting, trading and selling. Especially in the dino digging hot zone of Mongolia. Had no idea how many regulations have been changed or adopted in just the past few years. If you’re into this stuff, I’d recommend it. The “true crime” buzzword is a bit of a stretch, but I can see it. Well researched and accessible.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robert Gay

    Interesting story but the dinosaur that was stolen is just a set piece. I know enough about Tarbosaurus to know why it is cool, but a bit more background on the dinosaurs of the Gobi would have been nice.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nola Redd

    An excellent book. Williams weaves history, politics, and of course dinosaurs together in a seamless page-turner.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katharine Rudzitis

    Entertaining and brings some high stakes to the fossil world.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kent

  27. 5 out of 5

    Topher Colin

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sherrie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Em Meurer

  30. 5 out of 5

    Blake Kendall

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