“All the Wrong Places – A Life Lost and Found” by Phil Connors. W.W. Norton is the publisher.

Phil Connors discusses and autographs copies of “All the Wrong Places” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19 at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW and at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20 at Collected Works, 202 Galisteo, Santa Fe

By David Steinberg

You may remember the name Philip Connors. His book, “Fire Season,” told of the elegant solitude he had found as a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest in southwest New Mexico.

Connors’ return as an author is in the newly published book “All the Wrong Places.” It is about a personal quest during the years leading up to his work in the fire tower.

The quest? Seeking the mystery behind his brother Dan’s suicide in Albuquerque. It is a tough, honest, transparent account.

The search is wound up in an exploration of other mysteries. Could he, Connors, have prevented the suicide with a simple phone call? How well did Connors and others know his brother? Connors digs into his brother’s relationships with family, friends, fiancés, producing a deeper understanding of who Dan was.

“When you feel that that’s the most important story in your life, you’re going to bring all your skills to bear to go after that story,” Connors said in a phone interview from his home in Silver City.

“It’s more about using the talents I have out of a sense of obligation to my brother.”

And impressive journalistic talents they are.

Connors takes you through some gruesome descriptions. He describes photographs of the police report of the scene of Dan’s suicide. Connors reads from the report of the Office of the Medical Investigator.

During much of the time of his search, Connors was living in New York City, working briefly as an intern for the Nation magazine and for a longer period as a copy editor and writer for Wall Street Journal. He was in the city on 9/11. He lived for a spell in the rough Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. He sought romantic relationships.

Connors explains to the reader why and how some of his big-city experiences relate to the book’s title.

“I was always ending up in the all the wrong places: Bed-Stuy, the Wall Street Journal, the make-believe province of telephonic copulation. In order not to feel satisfied with life in the wake of my brother’s death – in order to prove to myself that I had loved him – I’d denied myself contentment in all its forms, as if pleasure were anathema to my holy grief. …”

In the phone interview, Connors commented on the mashup of those experiences. “Any time you put a pig farmer’s son (from Minnesota) in the big city strange things are going to happen. … There were layers of strangeness, and the shadow of my brother’s death coaxed me into strange choices and strange situations,” he said.

“Not a word of it is made up.”

PS. In April, Connors will begin his 14th season as a fire lookout.

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