Apex Event: Jordan Fisher Smith Discuss the Art of “Engineering Eden”

engineering eden

Jordan Fisher Smith, author of “Nature Noir” and “Engineering Eden,” informed students and faculty alike on his writing process during a Southern Utah University APEX event on March 18.

Prior to being an author, Smith was a park and wilderness ranger for 21 years for the Forest Service, National Park Service and California state parks. These careers united throughout his writing process and through his lecture.

“The world is made to be seen and enjoyed and cherished,” Smith remarked as he described how he successfully makes characters jump off the page.

Through his lecture, Smith described the early years of Yellowstone National Park, and particularly the mistreatment of the land.

“As far as nature conservation, no one had saved anything,” Smith stated, comparing the technological advances the United States was making to their navigation of park maintenance.

He described the destruction of an ecosystem and extreme hunting. Smith even noted that there were only 25 bison left in the park in 1901.

It was then that he went on to introduce the real-life character who inspired “Engineering Eden,” Jim Brady, the park ranger found at the center of the story.

Smith’s book focused on the event and court case of Harry Eugene Walker’s death during the 100-year-celebration of Yellowstone.

While quite a bit of his work feels like an adventure story with plot twists at every turn, it is nonfiction. Relying on sense impressions, Smith has gone to great lengths to study everything about Brady’s story. 

From reading the legal documents that first got him interested, to the basement of a grizzly bear biologist and all the way to the very courtroom where the drama unfolded — Smith has been there.

Smith said that when writing the story, he hoped it was “restored to life as real as you can imagine,” but continued to state, “I don’t give myself the right to make things up.”

Smith ended the independent portion of his lecture by reading an excerpt from “Engineering Eden,” enticing listeners throughout the room as he described a ranger’s way of life, bear encounters and a tragedy involving Old Faithful.

More of the story and more of Smith’s works can be found on his website.

Future events and more information can be found on SUU’s APEX website


Article and Photo by: Audrey Gee