Previous Letters from Miles Harvey
September 4, 2001
Back in June of 1997, Outside magazine published an article I wrote about the theft of hundreds of antique maps from rare-books libraries around the United States and Canada. Researching the piece had taken me more than a year, and convincing the editors at Outside that the story was right for their magazine had not been easy. (Indeed, the article might not have appeared at all if not for the persistence and superb editing of Hampton Sides, who, since leaving Outside, has become author of the bestseller Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission.) By the time the magazine hit the newsstands, I was glad to be finished and ready to move on.
A day or two later, however, I got a phone call from Charles Conrad, executive editor at Broadway Books. He said something that surprised me: he thought the story would make a good book. I told him I wasn't sure I had the energy to pursue such a project. Think about it, he said. I did just that--and the more I pondered the possibilities, the more I began to feel that he was right. Eventually, I wrote a long book proposal, which ended up selling--to one of Charlie's competitors. My experience with Random House, publisher of the hardback edition, has been absolutely wonderful. Nonetheless, I have remained hugely grateful to Charlie for helping to inspire The Island of Lost Maps.
And so, I am particularly pleased to announce that this month, Broadway Books will publish the paperback edition of the book. Getting the chance to work with Charles Conrad after all this time has been a delight, and I also want to take this opportunity to thank assistant editor Becky Cole, as well as Betsy Areddy, the superb publicist for the paperback edition.
And, of course, I continue to be amazed by the kind words, thoughtful critiques and marvelous yarns that hundreds of readers of The Island of Lost Maps worldwide have sent me through this web site. Thank you all for making my life richer and my knowledge broader. I look forward to hearing from those of you who have just purchased the paperback edition.
March 1, 2001
When Jon Karp, my editor at Random House, urged me to establish my own web site, I was more than a little skeptical. I couldn't figure out why readers of The Island of Lost Maps would want to visit such a site. And frankly, I wondered what was in it for me, other than a lot of time and effort. This site, in short, was one dot-com start-up that almost folded before it was even launched.
Luckily, I followed Jon's advice, not my own instincts. Thanks to this forum, I've received literally hundreds of e-mail messages from readers over the past six months. Some of you had marvelous stories to tell about your own adventures with--and passion for--maps. Many others offered wonderfully perceptive and helpful comments on my book. A few of you even delivered chapter-by-chapter critiques as you worked your way through The Island of Lost Maps. For a first-time author, such direct and immediate feedback from readers has been a godsend. I've taken huge inspiration from your advice and encouragement. In truth, my whole experience with this book has been pretty overwhelming. It seems somehow unreal that The Island of Lost Maps spent eight consecutive weeks on The New York Times extended bestseller list. It was also a bestseller in Canada, rising to No. 3 on the Maclean's magazine nonfiction list. And it has just been released in Great Britain, where it spent two weeks among the top-five of The London Evening Standard bestseller chart.
Although the book got its share of bad reviews (Time: "meandering"; Newsweek: "no sense of direction"), it was, in general, remarkably well received among critics. USA Today, for instance, selected it as one of the ten best books of 2000, as did the Chicago Sun-Times. Borders Books, meanwhile, picked The Island of Lost Maps as one of six finalists for its non-fiction Original Voices Award, along with Jacques Barzun's Dawn to Decadence, David Bodanis' E=mc2, Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and my good friend Michael Paterniti's Driving Mr. Albert.
A quirky book like mine doesn't succeed without a ton of help. I'm tremendously grateful to all the booksellers who went out of their way to personally introduce The Island of Lost Maps to customers. I also feel blessed to have worked with a number of talented and energetic publicists: Sally Marvin in New York, Regina Mangum in Los Angeles, Sheila Kay in Toronto and Lisa Shakespeare in London. In addition, I would like to express my gratitude to Matthew Brandabur, the gifted designer of this web site and a great personal friend. Finally, to the readers of The Island of Lost Maps, my heartfelt thanks for allowing me to share my ideas and observations with you. And to those who have shared yours with me, my deepest thanks of all.
The paperback edition of The Island of Lost Maps is scheduled be published by Broadway Books in September of 2001. In the meantime, keep those virtual cards and letters coming.
September 5, 2000
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Bippus, Indiana. Young America, Minnesota. Nine Times, South Carolina. Cut and Shoot, Texas. When the settlers were filling in the map of America, they selected place names with a gleeful sense of humor and poetry. If only we who are putting down stakes in cyberspace were so creative. The name "MilesHarvey.com" is, I concede, both self-promoting and unoriginal. But while I yearned to give this site a name that rolls off the tongue and skitters around the brain--some Internet equivalent of Owosso, Michigan; Oologah, Oklahoma; Opelika, Alabama; or Opa-Locka, Florida--I decided, in the end, to go with the one that could be most easily found.
At any rate, I'm glad you're here. Most of you have come because of your interest in my book, The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime, published in September of 2000 by Random House. For you, I hope this site will serve as a helpful source of information, both about the fascinating world of maps and about my own activities. Others of you have stumbled upon this site during the course of some unrelated trek through cyberspace. (Experts on the cartography of the Internet have, by the way, determined that pages on the World Wide Web are so closely linked that any two given pages are only an average of 19 clicks away from each other.) I hope you wanderers find something of interest here, too.
Please feel free to contact me. I can't promise that I'll respond to every e-mail directly, but I do want this site to become a forum for the exchange of ideas. Like the founders of those pioneer towns, I hope that MilesHarvey.com will evolve from a spot on the map into a real community.