A feet-on-the-ground journalist for diverse media such as Vice, the New Yorker and n+1, James Pogue goes after a story with the tenacity of a bulldog clamped on a stick. In the tradition of early Rolling Stone "new journalists" like Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe and Lester Bangs, Pogue is not afraid to share booze and smokes with his interview targets in order to get the lowdown on his subject. In Chosen Country, he puts on tire chains and drives through snowy central Oregon to understand firsthand what is behind the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by a ragtag army led by charismatic Mormon zealot Ammon Bundy. Pogue gets to know the occupiers, the FBI, local law officers and the annoyed uninvolved surrounding ranchers and feed store proprietors. In this volatile mix, he finds a potent stew of politics, activism, ideology and messianic cultism. One Bundy supporter states his anti-federal government stance succinctly: "If you don't want your nose broke, keep it out of my business."
Like a good gonzo journalist, Pogue often veers off into tangential historical asides and brings his own prejudices and personal rants to this story of "young men with guns and tactical gear." He chases his story into the Oregon basin because "the country was going insane, and at least here you could see the mechanisms at work." Chosen Country burrows into the widening cracks that divide what someday may turn out to be the ironically named United States. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.