After traveling to more than 120 countries on seven continents and visiting all 50 states, Clark Norton has narrowed the focus of his award-winning travel writing to the strangeness of the Tucson area with his newest guidebook, “Secret Tucson: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.”
In the 1974 film “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” actress Jodie Foster said, “Tucson is the weird capital of the world.” Secret Tucson is a manual for discovering the bizarre actualities of the city. The book explores everything from the unknown oddities of the city to the strange happenings throughout its history. Tucson Local Media caught up with Norton to discuss his new book and the overall “weirdness” of the city.
Did the idea for Secret Tucson stem from your past book, 100 Things to Do in Tucson Before You Die?
Yes, I mean the fact that I had written that book for [the publisher]. They loved that book and then they wanted me to do this one called “Secret Tucson.”
If you had to pick a favorite entry in the book, what would it be?
One of the ones that I love is the story of the lost treasure of the Catalinas. The lost Escalante mine, also called the Iron Door mine about the lost gold in the Catalinas, which might still be up there. It dates from the eighteenth century, when the Jesuits were kicked out of the area by Spain because they apparently didn’t give enough gold to the Spanish king. They stored it away in this lost mine, at least one lost mine, probably a number of them. It makes you wonder how many are out there and this particular one is probably the best known and it’s on what I would call ‘a treasure hunter’s map of the country.’
The book seems like it is equally applicable to both locals and people visiting for the first time, did you have that in mind when researching and writing for the book?
I did absolutely. I wanted stuff that would appeal to both because I know that some of these things are not total secrets to some of the people who have lived here all there lives, but what I thought would be interesting for them to read about the background histories of some of these things. Like the Paul Bunyan statue on the corner of North Stone Avenue and Glenn Street and the tiki head on Fourth Avenue.
What would be the first thing you would tell someone about Tucson who is visiting for the first time? What is one thing they would absolutely have to know?
Well I would say there is a lot more here that meets the eye. There are so many things when you are just driving around the city that you wouldn’t even know was there.
Norton will be doing a book signing and give a talk at Mostly Books, 6208 E. Speedway Blvd., on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 2 to 3 p.m., where the book is also available for purchase. Secret Tucson can be found in local bookstores and is also available through Amazon.com, through Reedy Press, which is the publisher, or directly from Norton’s website clarknorton.com.
Jack Ramsey is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.