From the award-winning author of Down from the Mountain, a memoir of inheritance, history, and one gun’s role in the violence that shaped the American West—and an impassioned call to forge a new way forward
Bryce Andrews was raised to do no harm. The son of a pacifist and conscientious objector, he moved from Seattle to Montana to tend livestock and the land as a cowboy. For a decade, he was happy. Yet, when Andrews inherited his grandfather’s Smith & Wesson revolver, he felt the weight of the violence braided into his chosen life. Other white men who’d come before him had turned firearms like this one against wildlife, wilderness, and the Indigenous peoples who had lived in these landscapes for millennia. This was how the West was “won.” Now, the losses were all around him and a weapon was in his hand.
In precise, elegiac prose, Andrews chronicles his journey to forge a new path for himself, and to reshape one handgun into a tool for good work. As waves of gun violence swept the country and wildfires burned across his beloved valley, he began asking questions—of ranchers, his Native neighbors, his family, and a blacksmith who taught him to shape steel—in search of a new way to live with the land and with one another. In laying down his arms, he transformed an inherited weapon, his ranch, and the arc of his life.
Holding Fire is a deeply felt memoir of one Western heart’s wild growth, and a personal testament to how things that seem permanent—inheritance, legacies of violence, forged steel—can change.
Bryce Andrews is the author of Down from the Mountain, which won the Banff Mountain Book Competition and was a Montana Book Award Honor Title and an Amazon Best Science Title of 2019. His first book was Badluck Way, which won the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, the Reading the West Book Award for nonfiction, and the High Plains Book Award for both nonfiction and debut book. Andrews grew up in Seattle, Washington, and spent a decade working on ranches in the high valleys of Montana. He lives near Missoula with his family.
“A powerful meditation on a rural life of hunting in a world of guns—some of them used for sinister purposes… A welcome, eminently sensible contribution to the literature of the American West—and responsible gun ownership.” — Kirkus Reviews
“In this beautifully observed book, Bryce Andrews takes us on a courageous and necessary journey toward reconciliation that is as visceral as it is transcendent. The West and its varied inhabitants come alive with every shining line and, when I was done, I found myself wishing for the world that Andrews and his family are daily working toward. This jewel of a book belongs on the shelf with our best Western writers - Norman MacLean, Pam Houston, and Annie Proulx.” — John Vaillant, bestselling author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce
“An astonishing call to attention. Bryce Andrews' story corrals despair and offers understanding, douses anxiety and offers wonder. This isn’t mere memoir, Holding Fire is a song to the West, a talisman of ferocious beauty for a world on edge. Compelling and compassionate, a must read for all who seek peace in uncertain times.” — Debra Magpie Earling, award-winning author of Perma Red
“The two sides of Bryce Andrews—enlightened rancher and sensitive writer—appear to make a smooth fit...Precise and evocative prose.” — Washington Post on Down from the Mountain
"Andrews’s writing about wilderness is much like that of author Rick Bass, who displays both a healthy reverence for ecology and an easy way of talking about it. This story is not just about Andrews’s shift from rancher to conservationist. It’s an ode to wildness and wilderness in the form of grizzlies. It’s about the tightrope bears walk between living in their mountainous territory, consuming pine nuts, army cutworm moths, and winterkill, versus coming down the mountain to scavenge in human territory. It’s about the resulting relationship between humans and grizzlies when they live in close proximity." — Outside on Down from the Mountain
“Bryce Andrews’ wonderful Down from the Mountain is deeply informed by personal experience and made all the stronger by his compassion and measured thoughts. He outlines clearly the core of a major problem in the rural American West—the disagreement between large predatory animals and invasive modern settlers—without disrespect and without sentimentality. His book is welcome and impressive work.” — Barry Lopez
"Would that we had more nature writing like Bryce Andrews’s fantastic second book, Down from the Mountain. Part biography of the Mission Valley in Montana, informed by the Blackfeet and Salish histories rooted there, it tells a moving modern tale of how ranchers and big predators overlap uneasily on that land today...Down from the Mountain eschews easy moral scrimmaging...A subtle and beautifully unexpected book...Readers hungry for yet another torch bearer to the ways of thinking of the wild that Barry Lopez and Leslie Marmon Silko made possible should look no further." — Literary Hub
“[A] soulful new exegesis on ursid-hominid relations...Down from the Mountain showcases a writer whose talents have fully matured...Down from the Mountain belongs in the pantheon of contemporary conservation writing. It is easy to forget, when arguing over the fate of wildlife, that populations are composed of thinking, feeling individuals; in his sensitive treatment of an ill-fated ursid, Andrews breaches the fences that guard our compassion.” — Ben Goldfarb, High Country News