Bozeman resident and author Todd Wilkinson’s freshly published book “Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet,” not only is the product of seven years of heavy research, travel and interviews, but was also chosen as this year’s One Book, One Bozeman publication.
Each year, the Bozeman Public Library Foundation selects a book as a focus point to encourage dialogue and literacy for One Book, One Bozeman. “Last Stand” does this by calling attention to the fierce environmentalist side of Ted Turner and bringing his ideas about our planet to mind. Indeed, at a public reading held last week, many questions came from a full audience at the Country Bookshelf — possibly because, as Wilkinson says, Turner is “somewhat of an Oz-like figure” living on the edge of town.
It is common knowledge that the famous billionaire is often the subject of rumors, but Wilkinson doggedly attacks these misconceptions — he interviews the illustrious circle of people connected to Ted Turner, including his ex-wife Jane Fonda, the former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, and Jacques Cousteau’s son, Jean-Michel Cousteau. By doing so, he brings out the angles and facets that make up the person whom Wilkinson calls “a great American character.” While this book could easily have become a puff piece about Turner, Wilkinson notes, “What it does is offer the story of Ted, but what I’ve tried to do is bring in global issues that have local relevance to our lives. I hope people reflect on their relationship to the environment.”
The book came in at 190,000 words — 70,000 of which were scrapped, because Wilkinson admits, “I tend to over-research.” With the remaining words, though, Wilkinson highlights Turner as an inherently flawed human, but also an eternal optimist. Optimism regarding the environment is a rare thing these days, but Wilkinson earnestly hopes that anybody reading this book, especially young people, will think about “what kind of citizens you want to be, what kind of good you want to do in the world, how you want to participate in our political process, but also how you define prosperity and the ‘good life.’”
With these deep insights, it is clear why One Book, One Bozeman selected “Last Stand” — it chooses to focus on one person, but this person serves as a foil for the sort of people we must think about becoming, and how our actions will impact the future. Wilkinson writes with a conscious focus on the bigger picture, making “Last Stand” a multi-faceted work to which he hopes people can relate.
For university students, Wilkinson especially hopes that “a student could find some point of entry into it. If you’re a scientist, interested in biology or wildlife, there’s something for you. If you’re interested in being a business major, there’s that aspect of Ted Turner and his way of doing things. If you’re an engineer, you can think about alternative energy systems, and if you’re a history or liberal arts major, hopefully there are stories in there that should resonate with you as well.”
Todd Wilkinson’s book, “Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet” is on bookshelves around town and available online.