Tom Miller seeks writer for Moritz Thomsen book (Ecuador)

Tom Miller has been writing about Latin America and the American Southwest for more than thirty years. Miller’s highly acclaimed adventure books include The Panama Hat Trail about South America, On the Border, an account of his travels along the U.S.-Mexico frontier, Trading With the Enemy, which takes readers on his journeys through Cuba, and, about the American Southwest, Revenge of the Saguaro. Additionally, he has edited three compilations, How I Learned English, Travelers’ Tales Cuba, and Writing on the Edge: A Borderlands Reader.

Tom Miller

Miller, a veteran of the underground press of the 1960s, was subpoenaed by the Nixon Justice Department to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the anti-war movement. Miller refused to even enter the grand jury room, claiming that to appear behind closed doors would affect his ability to gather news. After considerable legal maneuvering on both sides a US District Court judge ruled in Miller’s favor.

Miller was born and raised in Washington, D.C., attended college in Ohio, and since 1969 has lived in Arizona 65 miles north of the Mexican border. He is a past fellow of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and holds membership in the Thornton Wilder Society and the Cervantes Society of America. He was a major contributor to the four-volume Encyclopedia Latina.

He wrote me recently with this request for any RPCV writer who is looking for a book (or article) topic. JCoyne

One night more than 35 years ago I met Moritz Thomsen, a writer and former Peace Corps Volunteer. This took place in Quito, capital of Ecuador where Thomsen had served. His account of his Peace Corps years is wonderfully detailed in Living Poor, the first of a handful of terrific nonfiction books that earned the author ranking as among the best American expat authors of the twentieth century. I describe him like this:  He was a man of almost insufferable integrity and undeniable charm.

Over the years until his death in 1991 Thomsen befriended many writers on the literary gringo trail through the Americas as well as Peace Corps officials, local farmers, and others, building up an impressive array of acquaintances with whom he corresponded. I count myself among them, all the more fortunate in that I came to know him personally. At one point late in the twentieth century I had in mind to write a biography of him, or at least, with Paul Theroux, compile a Festschrift (literary tribute) in his honor. Neither effort reached fruitition. Still, I amassed an enormous amount of material about him going back to his military service as well as letters he had written to others.

I don’t want this valuable resource to go to waste, but I’m not capable of acting on it personally either. So I make this proposal: I will entertain requests from writers to pursue a book on Thomsen. It could be your first book it could be your tenth. Thomsen deserves this.

Details: my archives, including the extensive Thomsen material, are lodged at the Special Collections room of the University of Arizona Library. While it is available to all, it is best evaluated and most efficiently utilized with my advice.  I will likewise turn you on to those who knew him up to the end – cholera in Guayaquil – and can help where I cannot. (This would likely involve travel to Ecuador. Lucky you!)

This is a long-term literary project, possibly reputation-establishing. I know of no funding source, though it seems ripe for foundation queries.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tom Miller
Tucson, Arizona


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  • Thanks for the heads up John. This is an incredible opportunity. Moritz Thomsen is my favorite RPCV author–his books on the Esmeraldas are classics and the “Saddest Pleasure” provides a unique perspective on so many things as does “My two Wars”–some travel and lots of personal insights. Ecuador is one of my favorite places (after Guatemala), making the project that much more interesting.

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