Craig K. Collins

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Thunder in the Mountains: A Portrait of American Gun Culture

Industry: Books

In his gripping memoir, debut author Craig K. Collins explores American's gun culture from a completely new and deeply personal perspective.

United States (PRUnderground) October 10th, 2014

THUNDER IN THE MOUNTAINS: A Portrait of American Gun Culture by Craig K. Collins

In his gripping memoir, debut author Craig K. Collins invites readers to consider guns from a perspective that’s rarely heard—someone who has experienced first-hand their lure, their importance to a way of life, and their capacity to wreak devastation.

“I grew up with guns and with people who revere guns,” he says. “I’ve tried to tell our story without judgment. People can make their own decisions.” Whatever they decide, no one who reads THUNDER IN THE MOUNTAINS: A Portrait of American Gun Culture (Lyons Press; October 7, 2014) is likely to think about guns in quite the same way again.

The story begins with the author, age 13, on an isolated peak in Northeastern Nevada. It’s the first day of deer season, and he’s checking to see that his high-powered rifle is fully loaded, when he accidentally shoots himself in the foot. Collins’ first thought was that it didn’t seem possible that he had shot himself. It was something that happened to other people. He’d taken several gun safety courses. He had been around guns and had accompanied his father on hunting trips from as early as he could remember.

Collins grew up in a family where guns were as much a part of life as driving a car. “The West has deep, historical ties to guns,” said Collins. “It’s certainly so in my family, which came West to settle in Montana, Idaho and Nevada”. His ancestors were pioneers, miners, ranchers, railroad men, and cavalrymen. Guns were not luxuries. They were utilities–as important to survival in the region as a horse, shovel or pick.

But the day he shot himself in the remote wilderness a hundred miles from the nearest hospital, experiencing unremitting pain and terror, was a defining moment in Collins’ life, a moment that would forever change the way he thought about guns.

In THUNDER IN THE MOUNTAINS, Collins recounts a rapid succession of accidental shootings among teenage boys in his hometown just before and after his own—shootings that left three of his classmates dead, one permanently brain damaged and one forever scarred. “Unfortunately, I can speak from experience regarding the nature of gun violence in the West,” says Collins. “Gun accidents and suicides were fairly common occurrences in the small towns where I was raised. And they still are to this day.”

Collins starts his adult life in San Diego, leaving behind the rural Western towns of his youth and the gun violence that plagued his childhood, only to once again be visited by tragedy when his teenage son’s best friend decides to shoot himself after failing to make his high school football team and being turned down by a girl for the prom. The excruciating irony of this family’s tragedy was that the mother was opposed to bringing a gun into the house, but finally relented and allowed her husband to buy a rifle. It was that rifle, hidden in the attic, that their son used to kill himself.

Interspersed with a historical perspective reflecting our country’s unique and often painful relationship with guns, including notes on the Indian massacre at Bad Axe, the siege of Vicksburg, the slaughter of buffalo in Montana, and the discovery of gold in a remote Nevada canyon, THUNDER IN THE MOUNTAINS is an unusually rich and poignant memoir that mixes tender coming-of-age moments with episodes of senseless loss—all bound by a deep exploration of how guns influence many of us as individuals and all of us as a nation.

About the Author 
Craig K. Collins is CEO of a San Diego-based educational technology firm. He also serves as Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Gun Analytics, a non-profit dedicated to leveraging the power of technology and big data to accurately illuminate the true nature of American gun deaths and injuries. He was born in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1960, and was raised in small towns throughout the Great Basin—Carson City, Nevada; Winnemucca, Nevada; and Bishop, California. He attended college in San Diego, where he has lived since, and holds a BA in English and an MBA from San Diego State University. After a stint as a journalist, he served as a senior executive for Fortune 500 companies. Later, he founded a series of venture-backed technology start-ups. He recently was recruited to serve as President and CEO of Boost Academy, an educational technology start-up based in San Diego, California. He has won a number of professional awards for writing, marketing, innovation, and entrepreneurship. THUNDER IN THE MOUNTAINS is his first book.

A Portrait of American Gun Culture
By Craig K. Collins

Lyons Press • ISBN 978-1-4930-0385-3 • $25.95 • Hardcover • 272 • 6 x 9 • October 7, 2014

Book reviewers, bloggers, journalists, and other media professionals wanting to review Thunder in the Mountains: A Portrait of American Gun Culture or interview Craig K. Collins should contact GK Zachary 845-493-0468 or email him at


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