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This work evolved from a magazine assignment that took the author to Jack Kerouac's remote fire lookout on Desolation Peak on the 40th anniversary of the publication of "The Dharma Bums". For two weeks in the summer of 1995, Suiter - an East Coast city-dweller all his life - lived in Kerouac's still-standing fire lookout, making photographs for his magazine project. Meanwhile, the awesome beauty and profound solitude of the surrounding North Cascades worked their magic-as it had for Kerouac and countless others since. In 1996, Suiter met the poets Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, who had also worked as fire lookouts on peaks in the North Cascades in the 1950s. It had been Snyder-the real-life model for Kerouac's fictive "Japhy Ryder"-who had first come into the Upper Skagit country as a fire lookout in 1952 and blazed the way for Whalen and Kerouac to follow. Suiter returned to the North Cascades during the next few summers for further shooting-hikes on Crater, Sourdough, and Sauk mountains. Illustrated with 35 photographs, "Poets on the Peaks" tells how the solitary mountain adventures of three young men helped to form the literary, spiritual, and environmental values of a generation. Based on scores of previously unpublished letters and journals, plus interviews with Snyder and Whalen and several others, the book creates a group portrait of Kerouac, Snyder, and Whalen that transcends the tired urban cliches of the "Beat" life.
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