Tom Harpole | Regarding Willingness

Montana writer offers “Chronicles of a Fraught Life” in new collection

Books & Writers

Tom “Harp” Harpole was an explosive expert and horse logger working from remote mountain camps and living in wall tents until an accident forced him out of that lifestyle. He took to his other avocation – writing – and the fruits of those labors appear in this new collection, Regarding Willingness.

“Tom Harpole is what you might call a thinking man’s Evel Knievel,” writes Aaron Parrett.
“Tom Harpole is what you might call a thinking man’s Evel Knievel,” writes Aaron Parrett.

Harpole, who was the first American chosen to participate in the prestigious Irish National Writer’s Workshop in 1987, began publishing stories in periodicals such as Smithsonian Air & Space, Sports Illustrated, Crocodil, Montana Quarterly, Whitefish Review, and more. In 1986, his story “The Last of Butch” was selected as The Best Short Story in the British Isles. He was a finalist in 1994 and 2010 for the National Magazine Award for reporting, and has covered stories around the globe.

Harpole writes in a voice that Montanans can appreciate, using his natural wit and humor to shed light on a lifetime spent writing stories that bring readers to the brink of danger.

“Tom Harpole is what you might call a thinking man’s Evel Knievel,” wrote Aaron Parrett in Montana Senior News.

Certain magazines that assigned Harp feature articles knew early on that he would try anything that involved physical or emotional risks. He regarded himself as an aficionado of “survivor’s euphoria,” that elation that occurs after surviving a dangerous experience.

His willingness and perspective on dalliances with adrenalin range from setting a National Football League record by catching a football shot out of a cannon at about 100 miles per hour, to skydiving with Russian cosmonauts, to getting a black bear stoned, to protesting Gorbachev in 1990, to driving ice roads above the Arctic circle, and more. He’s also worked as a volunteer EMT in rural Montana – a pursuit that melded danger and compassion.

Regarding Willingness is a collection of 16 of his most popular stories. The new book is published by Riverfeet Press of Livingston, and is available on its website:

“With wistfulness and wit, Harpole shares tales of Alaska, the former Soviet Union, small town Montana and beyond. In the self-effacing tradition of Tim Cahill’s work, his adventures, sometimes unanticipated, are always told with a rough and ready heart,” writes Betsy Gaines Quammen, author of American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God & Public Lands in the West.

Harp lives in Helena, where he operates an arborist outfit, TreeIncarnation, with his son.