Nevada Barr was born in Nevada and received her name from a favorite character in one of her father's books. She is the daughter of two pilots and grew up in Susanville, California, near a small mountain airport eighty miles northwest of Reno. She attended college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and graduate school at the University of California at Irvine.
For several years, she pursued a career in theater. In New York she served as a member of the Classic Stage Company and performed in several off-Broadway plays. After five years in the Big Apple, she moved to Minneapolis, where she did more theater work and appeared in several television advertisements and industrial films.
Her former husband was involved with the National Park Service, and it was this that first raised Barr's interest in conservation and wildlife.
Before she began writing full-time, she worked intermittently as a National Park Service ranger. Her stints in various parks have served as source material for the settings of each of her novels.
She began seriously writing in 1978, and in 1984, she finished her first book, Bittersweet, a piece of historical fiction about a shared love between two women. After this, she turned to writing mysteries. Her stint at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas served as the source for the setting of Track of the Cat (1993), her critically acclaimed mystery debut. The book won the 1994 Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 1993 and the 1994 Anthony Award for Best Novel of 1993. The plot of Track of the Cat revolves around the discovery of a ranger's body that has seemingly been pawed to death by a lion, but who, as Anna Pigeon soon discovers, has fallen prey to foul play.
A Superior Death (1994) is set in Isle Royale National Parkan island in the middle of Lake Superior. In this novel, a diver finds "more than bargained for" in a sunken ship (Rancourt). In Ill Wind (1995), Anna Pigeon is re-assigned to Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park, the home of the vanished Anasazi civilization. Here, Pigeon finds a series of "more than coincidental accidents" including the death of a child and the murder of a friend (Lau-McDonald). Firestorm (1996) takes place amid the backdrop of a raging, and suspicious, forest fire in California's Lassen Volcanic National Park. The majority of the book focuses on a murder victim who is discovered after the fire. In Endangered Species (1997), Anna must solve the mysterious crash of a drug interdiction plane at Cumberland Island National Seashore, an isolated island off the coast of Georgia. Blind Descent (1998), is set in newly discovered Lechugilla Cave near Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.
There are several parallels between Nevada Barr and her character Anna Pigeon. Both are (or have been) law enforcement rangers in their forties. Both have a sister named Molly. Both fled the big city in favor of the National Park Service.
Nevada Barr and her husband now live in Clinton, Mississippi.
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