Author of ’Gold and Silver in the Mojave’ to speak Jan. 24

Author of ’Gold and Silver in the Mojave’ to speak Jan. 24Author and filmmaker Nicholas Clapp will appear at the Maturango Museum to present a fresh look our desert and the intriguing characters that inhabited it during mining days.

He will speak and sign copies of his new book, “Gold and Silver in the Mojave. Images of a Last Frontier,” at the museum’s Sylvia Winslow Exhibit Gallery on Thursday, Jan. 24, at 7:30 p.m. Doors will open at 7 p.m., and the event is free and open to the public.

“I predict that those who love the colorful history of our desert will want to own this book,” said Liz Babcock, the museum’s history curator. “It breathes fresh air into the brawling communities of the old Mojave.”

Clapp, who has studied and filmed the deserts of the world, holds a master’s degree in cinema from the University of Southern California.

He had his first professional break when he produced and directed “The Great Mojave Desert,” an hour-long special for CBS and the National Geographic Society. He followed that success with two more documentaries of the American desert, “The Haunted West” and “The Animals Nobody Loved.”

Over the years he has worked for David L. Wolper, Disney, Columbia Pictures, all three major networks and PBS — always finding a way to wind up in deserts, from Tierra del Fuego to the High Arctic of Ellesmere Island, which though a deep freeze, meets a desert’s climatological criteria.

When he was in Arabia’s “Empty Quarter” filming endangered oryx for the World Wildlife Fund, he heard of Ubar, a lost city of the sands. That led to an expedition that discovered the ancient site, until then believed to be mythical. Writing a book about this discovery prompted a shift from filmmaking to archaeology.

Later he excavated in Jordan, Israel, Syria, Ethiopia and Yemen, researching the myth and reality of the biblical Queen of Sheba. This same queen led him to the Death Valley area to find out more about the Queen of Sheba Mine.

After writing a book about the Queen of Sheba, he turned to one of the characters of the Last Frontier to write “Who Killed Chester Pray?”

As Clapp scoured libraries for information about Chester Pray, he discovered rare photographs illustrating the Last Frontier of America.

Applying the detailed eye of a cinematographer to the subject of “Gold and Silver in the Mojave,” Clapp vividly presents what he describes as a “grand, tumultuous, rowdy Last Act” for such mining towns as Randsburg, Tonopah, Goldfield, Rhyolite, Greenwater, Skidoo and Ballarat.

Clapp invites us to learn more about our desert in the pages of his book, profusely illustrated by rare photographs of the day assembled with interpretive text. “The Last Frontier may really be gone,” he said, “but it lives on through these photographs.”

Story First Published: 2013-01-16