In 1993 Jonathan Raban entered the Badlands, a place the size of England and the least visited region in all of the United States. Here he came across the ruins of a community and isolated homesteads. These homes, he realized, gave clues as to the characters and lives of the thousands of landless people who, seduced by the advertising of the railroad companies in the early 20th century, took the train West in search of new lives and a permanent agricultural community. What had happened to turn these homesteaders' hopes of a new beginning into such despair? The land which betrayed them turned out to be an America in miniature. This is their story.
Jonathan Raban is the author of Passage to Juneau, Bad Land , Hunting Mister Heartbreak, Coasting, Old Glory, Arabia, Soft City and the novels Foreign Land (1985) and Waxwings (2003). His awards include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Royal Society of Literature's Heinemann Award, the Thomas Cook Award, the PEN West Creative Nonfiction Award, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers' Award, and the Governor's Award of the State of Washington. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta , Harpers, the New York Review of Books, Outside, Atlantic Monthly, New Republic, and other magazines. In 1990 Raban, a British citizen, moved from London to Seattle, where he now lives with his daughter.