Wild New York ) use the titular beast as an excuse for an engaging if feckless conservationist road trip through Tasmania. A"/>

CARNIVOROUS NIGHTS: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger

Margaret Mittelbach, Author, Michael Crewdson, Author, Alexis Rockman, Illustrator . Villard $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6002-3

Mittelbach and Crewdson (coauthors of Wild New York ) use the titular beast as an excuse for an engaging if feckless conservationist road trip through Tasmania. A marsupial predator known for its 120-degree gape, the tiger is presumed extinct, but unverified sightings have anchored it on cryptozoologists' Most Wanted lists. The authors stake out likely haunts, talk to tiger investigators and skeptics, take in the pop-culture mania that has made the tiger Tasmania's unofficial mascot and visit a lab that's trying to clone the animal from a pickled 139-year-old specimen. The tiger hunt is often sidetracked to observe wallabies; giant crayfish; a variety of gross, menacing bugs; and the celebrated Tasmanian devil, a voracious marsupial scavenger whose "guttural, demonic screaming" is "a combination of rabid dog and Linda Blair in The Exorcist ." Tasmanian fauna is not especially charismatic and often appears as roadkill, which carpets the island's blacktops and forms an intrusive narrative motif. Indeed, the most exotic creature is the Byronic, usually stoned artist Alexis Rockman, who accompanied the authors and supplies ghostly illustrations done in such impeccably authentic media as "wombat fecal matter and acrylic polymer on paper." His antics up the book's gonzo factor. and the authors' lively writing will keep readers' spirits high. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
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Paperback - 319 pages - 978-0-8129-6769-2
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