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About David Welky
I write the kinds of books that I like to read. I'm drawn to quirky topics with fascinating characters that illuminate a particular moment in time, and I love telling stories using clear, direct, engaging prose that allows readers to immerse themselves in unfamiliar worlds.
As a professional historian, I strive to uphold the most rigorous standards of scholarship. I don't invent conversations, I don't put words in people's mouths, and I don't offer conclusions that I can't support. As a writer and a book lover, however, I want you to feel like a participant in every scene I describe, whether it's set in the Oval Office, a refugee camp, or an Arctic shack.
History is what I do. I write about the past, I read about the past, and I talk about the past. I hope my passion for the subject shines through in my work. Thanks for reading!
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Titles By David Welky
A Booklist Best Literary Travel Book (2017) and Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book (2016)
“A penetrating study of human character in a challenging environment. . . . [David Welky’s] seamless narrative, chilling at times and always thought-provoking, transports the reader to a time when the Arctic was virtually as harsh and inaccessible a place as the Moon or Mars.” —Natural History
From a snow-swept hill in the ice fields northwest of Greenland, famed Arctic explorer Robert E. Peary spots a line of mysterious peaks dotting the horizon. In 1906, he names that distant, uncharted territory “Crocker Land.” Years later, two of Peary’s disciples, George Borup and Donald MacMillan, take the brave steps Peary never did: with a team of amateur adventurers and intrepid native guides, they endeavor to reach this unknown land and fill in the last blank space on the globe. What follows is hardship and mishap the likes of which none of the explorers could possibly have imagined. From howling blizzards and desperate food shortages to crime and tragedy, the explorers experience a remarkable journey of endurance, courage, and hope. Set in one of the world’s most inhospitable places, A Wretched and Precarious Situation is an Arctic tale unlike any other.
In the early days of 1937, the Ohio River, swollen by heavy winter rains, began rising. And rising. And rising. By the time the waters crested, the Ohio and Mississippi had climbed to record heights. Nearly four hundred people had died, while a million more had run from their homes. The deluge caused more than half a billion dollars of damage at a time when the Great Depression still battered the nation.
Timed to coincide with the flood's seventy-fifth anniversary, The Thousand-Year Flood is the first comprehensive history of one of the most destructive disasters in American history. David Welky first shows how decades of settlement put Ohio valley farms and towns at risk and how politicians and planners repeatedly ignored the dangers. Then he tells the gripping story of the river's inexorable rise: residents fled to refugee camps and higher ground, towns imposed martial law, prisoners rioted, Red Cross nurses endured terrifying conditions, and FDR dispatched thousands of relief workers. In a landscape fraught with dangers—from unmoored gas tanks that became floating bombs to powerful currents of filthy floodwaters that swept away whole towns—people hastily raised sandbag barricades, piled into overloaded rowboats, and marveled at water that stretched as far as the eye could see. In the flood's aftermath, Welky explains, New Deal reformers, utopian dreamers, and hard-pressed locals restructured not only the flood-stricken valleys, but also the nation's relationship with its waterways, changes that continue to affect life along the rivers to this day.
A striking narrative of danger and adventure—and the mix of heroism and generosity, greed and pettiness that always accompany disaster—The Thousand-Year Flood breathes new life into a fascinating yet little-remembered American story.