Author Begins Work on Second Novel Inspired by Controversial Anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon
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Ft. Wayne, IN: May 15, 2023—Dennis Junk is starting on the second installment of his Lachlan Shackley trilogy. The first, He Borara: A Novel about an Anthropologist among the Y?nomamö, was published in 2021 and has enjoyed a steady trickle of readers, mostly academics. Reviewers characterized it as “packed full of the daily grind and detail of an anthropologist doing the real work of anthropology in the field—outside of the textbooks and theories, where [Shackley] faces stark human realities.”
With the new work, Junk hopes to reach a wider audience, including readers interested in historical fiction and jungle adventure. The tentative title is Ora, the Y?nomamö word for jaguar, a figure who looms large in Y?nomamö mythology.
He Borara covered Shackley’s first 17-month sojourn in Amazonia. The sequel will open with Shackley teaming up with a physician in a harrowing race to vaccinate Y?nomamö villagers before a measles epidemic reaches them. Shackley’s story is loosely based on the life and field experiences of firebrand anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon.
Junk originally set out to capture the experience of traveling far from the comforts of our technologically advanced civilization to live with people whose culture is vastly different from our own. “As an anthropology student, I wanted to do what Napoleon Chagnon had done, but I realized that was no longer feasible,” Junk explains. “On the other hand, no one ever spread novel pathogens to an uncontacted village by writing a novel.”
Junk chose to self-publish He Borara because he feared publishers would be reluctant to work with a white author writing about indigenous peoples. “Chagnon himself is still demonized by many anthropologists because he reported on things like intervillage raids and kidnapping of women,” he explains. “Activist types insist he harmed the Y?nomamö by painting them in a negative light. But it’s a pipe dream of anthropologists that policymakers base their decisions on ethnographic studies. And if they’re so openly willing to censor themselves, why would anyone trust their work? The question is, am I profiting at the Y?nomamö’s expense? If anything, bringing attention to their plight will make it harder to mistreat them. And if the books ever grow beyond labor-of-love status, I’ll be looking to give back.”
Despite the inspiration from Chagnon, Junk stresses the work is fictional. “Shackley is a character very much of my own creation, as I never had the privilege of meeting Chagnon personally,” he says. “I wanted the freedom to develop his character to best serve the story. That said, I’m working to make Shackley one possible version of Chagnon. I’m trying to make Shackley’s life experiences mirror what details we have about Chagnon’s own biography. You find plenty of blank spaces to fill creatively when you attempt this with any historical figure.”
Dennis Junk holds bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and psychology, along with a master’s degree in British and American literature. Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic Magazine, recently credited him with writing “the best analysis of The Dawn of Everything yet published.” He lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana with his wife Alicia Pyle, his husky-malamute Kea, and his Great Dane Nola. You can read his reviews, essays, and short stories at www.dennisjunk.com. Find him on Twitter: DJunkInTheTrunk
Please send inquiries to: dennisjamesjunkgmail.com