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Publisher's Summary

New Yorker magazine staff writer Paige Williams explores the riveting and perilous world of fossil collectors in this "tremendous" (David Grann) true tale of one Florida man's attempt to sell a dinosaur skeleton from Mongolia - "a triumphant book" (Publishers Weekly) that is "steeped in natural history, human nature, commerce, crime, science, and politics" (Rebecca Skloot).

In 2012, a New York auction catalog boasted an unusual offering: "[A] superb Tyrannosaurus skeleton." In fact, Lot 49135 consisted of a nearly complete T. bataar, a close cousin to the most famous animal that ever lived. The fossils now on display in a Manhattan event space had been unearthed in Mongolia, more than 6,000 miles away. At eight feet high and 24 feet long, the specimen was spectacular, and when the gavel sounded, the winning bid was over one million dollars.

Eric Prokopi, a 38-year-old Floridian, was the man who had brought this extraordinary skeleton to market. A onetime swimmer who spent his teenage years diving for shark teeth, Prokopi's singular obsession with fossils fueled a thriving business hunting, preparing, and selling specimens to clients ranging from natural history museums to avid private collectors like actor Leonardo DiCaprio. 

But there was a problem. This time, facing financial strain, had Prokopi gone too far? As the T. bataar went to auction, a network of paleontologists alerted the government of Mongolia to the eye-catching lot. As an international custody battle ensued, Prokopi watched as his own world unraveled.

In the tradition of The Orchid Thief, The Dinosaur Artist is a stunning work of narrative journalism about humans' relationship with natural history and a seemingly intractable conflict between science and commerce. A story that stretches from Florida's Land O' Lakes to the Gobi Desert, The Dinosaur Artist illuminates the history of fossil collecting - a murky, sometimes risky business populated by eccentrics and obsessives, where the lines between poacher and hunter, collector and smuggler, enthusiast and opportunist, can easily blur. 

In her first audiobook, Paige Williams has given listeners an irresistible story that spans continents, cultures, and millennia as she examines the question of who, ultimately, owns the past.

©2018 Paige Williams (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"The Dinosaur Artist is a tale that has everything: passion, science, politics, intrigue, and, of course, dinosaurs. Paige Williams is a wonderful storyteller." (Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction)

"Paige Williams is that rare reporter who burrows into a subject until all of its dimensions, all of its darkened corners and secret chambers, are illuminated. With The Dinosaur Artist, she has done more than reveal a gripping true crime story; she has cast light on everything from obsessive fossil hunters to how the earth evolved. This is a tremendous book." (David Grann, number-one New York Times best-selling author of Killers of the Flower Moon)

"The Dinosaur Artist is a triumph. With peerless prose and sharp-eyed reporting, Paige Williams weaves a story that, even as it spans continents and transcends geological epochs, is deeply anchored in the passion and hubris of a rich cast of characters. Captivating, funny, and profound, it is easily one of the strongest works of non-fiction in years." (Ed Yong, staff writer, The Atlantic; New York Times best-selling author of I Contain Multitudes)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Performance

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Story

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Another Made Mediocre by So-So narration.

Narration: Somewhat annoying. Narrator has only one rhythm, one melody, which grows tiring after half-an hour or so. Also, the timber sounds a bit tinny and shrewish. Production would be much, much better with different narrator.

Content: I don't think so much time should be devoted to explaining the backgrounds of all the players in this story, nor should the initial themes be repeated ad nauseam. Badly in need of editing.

Too bad, because the subject matter is compelling and important.

Recommendation: Not recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

There's a great story in here, but it's covered up

This book could easily be half as long and twice as good.
There's just way too much background information included.

The narrator doesn't help matters. It sounds like one big long run-on sentence.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Who knew the politics of bones could be so interesting

Williams makes you fall in love with the Central characters. She keeps the story moving at a good pace while steering you through layers of multi government bureaucracies. I highly recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Unearthing scandal among fossils from the Gobi

Loved the book and characters. Narrator's efforts to pitch Mongolian and Southern US accents were not very believable but you can't say she didn't try to play up the drama. Highly recommended for dramatic documentary imagination of a true story of tension between science, culture and fossilized life in the Gobi.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Story Jumps Around Too Much

Interesting story. But, the reading was painful to listen to at times. There were awkward pauses like the speaker had forgotten a word or how to pronounce it. The story of the Prokopi’s was fascinating. However, the author jumped around in timelines so much that it was impossible to follow what was going on when backstories were expressed. It reached a point where I no longer cared about the history behind the story. This is sad since I’m guessing the history behind making fossil trade a black market is probably fascinating. But by jumping from one time point to another, I had no clue what she was talking about or why. This may be easier to read. But overall, I was disappointed in the story telling both in written and oral form.

Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • William R. Toddmancillas
  • Chico, California United States
  • 10-07-18

Another Made Mediocre by So-So narration.

Narration: Somewhat annoying. Narrator has only one rhythm, one melody, which grows tiring after half-an hour or so. Also, the timber sounds a bit tinny and shrewish. Production would be much, much better with different narrator.

Content: I don't think so much time should be devoted to explaining the backgrounds of all the players in this story, nor should the initial themes be repeated ad nauseam. Badly in need of editing.

Too bad, because the subject matter is compelling and important.

Recommendation: Not recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • MinnesotaChad
  • 09-21-18

There's a great story in here, but it's covered up

This book could easily be half as long and twice as good.
There's just way too much background information included.

The narrator doesn't help matters. It sounds like one big long run-on sentence.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Karen C. Godley
  • 09-16-18

Who knew the politics of bones could be so interesting

Williams makes you fall in love with the Central characters. She keeps the story moving at a good pace while steering you through layers of multi government bureaucracies. I highly recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • carioca
  • 11-10-18

Unearthing scandal among fossils from the Gobi

Loved the book and characters. Narrator's efforts to pitch Mongolian and Southern US accents were not very believable but you can't say she didn't try to play up the drama. Highly recommended for dramatic documentary imagination of a true story of tension between science, culture and fossilized life in the Gobi.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Cynthia M. Smith
  • Tucson, AZ United States
  • 10-29-18

Story Jumps Around Too Much

Interesting story. But, the reading was painful to listen to at times. There were awkward pauses like the speaker had forgotten a word or how to pronounce it. The story of the Prokopi’s was fascinating. However, the author jumped around in timelines so much that it was impossible to follow what was going on when backstories were expressed. It reached a point where I no longer cared about the history behind the story. This is sad since I’m guessing the history behind making fossil trade a black market is probably fascinating. But by jumping from one time point to another, I had no clue what she was talking about or why. This may be easier to read. But overall, I was disappointed in the story telling both in written and oral form.

Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • William R. Toddmancillas
  • Chico, California United States
  • 10-07-18

Another Made Mediocre by So-So narration.

Narration: Somewhat annoying. Narrator has only one rhythm, one melody, which grows tiring after half-an hour or so. Also, the timber sounds a bit tinny and shrewish. Production would be much, much better with different narrator.

Content: I don't think so much time should be devoted to explaining the backgrounds of all the players in this story, nor should the initial themes be repeated ad nauseam. Badly in need of editing.

Too bad, because the subject matter is compelling and important.

Recommendation: Not recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • MinnesotaChad
  • 09-21-18

There's a great story in here, but it's covered up

This book could easily be half as long and twice as good.
There's just way too much background information included.

The narrator doesn't help matters. It sounds like one big long run-on sentence.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Karen C. Godley
  • 09-16-18

Who knew the politics of bones could be so interesting

Williams makes you fall in love with the Central characters. She keeps the story moving at a good pace while steering you through layers of multi government bureaucracies. I highly recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • carioca
  • 11-10-18

Unearthing scandal among fossils from the Gobi

Loved the book and characters. Narrator's efforts to pitch Mongolian and Southern US accents were not very believable but you can't say she didn't try to play up the drama. Highly recommended for dramatic documentary imagination of a true story of tension between science, culture and fossilized life in the Gobi.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Cynthia M. Smith
  • Tucson, AZ United States
  • 10-29-18

Story Jumps Around Too Much

Interesting story. But, the reading was painful to listen to at times. There were awkward pauses like the speaker had forgotten a word or how to pronounce it. The story of the Prokopi’s was fascinating. However, the author jumped around in timelines so much that it was impossible to follow what was going on when backstories were expressed. It reached a point where I no longer cared about the history behind the story. This is sad since I’m guessing the history behind making fossil trade a black market is probably fascinating. But by jumping from one time point to another, I had no clue what she was talking about or why. This may be easier to read. But overall, I was disappointed in the story telling both in written and oral form.