What’s That Bear Doing in My Hot Tub? (and other insights into the ursine world)

We’ve got a mini book tour coming up next week.

In case of crowds, we’re asking gentlemen to leave their swords at home, and ladies to remove the hoops from their skirts. Please valet your horses at the gate. This is a particular problem in Pasadena and San Marino. But, trust me, it happens all over Los Angeles.

Thank you in advance.

This new book is a memoir/adventure story/fairy tale from the fertile mind of “Bear Whisperer” Steve Searles, who might be the most-interesting man in the world. Or maybe not. Depends on how you judge such things.

As his co-author, I will say this: Steve is to wild bears what Edison was to protons. He just seems to understand their flow. He harnesses them in positive ways, sees their magic, gives them room. And in the process, enhances our relationship to nature.

“Seeing a bear is like seeing a rainbow or a shooting star,” Steve said in a recent interview.

Whoa, where did that come from? Well, the mind of a mountaineer, who as the wildlife officer of Mammoth Lakes, crawled into bear dens for a living.

He had bad days and he had good, like any job. And he came away with insights into the world of bears like you’ve never seen.

Mozart once said of a colleague: “When he chooses, he strikes like a thunderbolt.”

So it is with Steve Searles.

You know, every day we see more and more bears. Their ranges are expanding – to the beaches of Malibu, to the trees of Disney World to a backyard near you. So understanding their behavior becomes more vital than ever.

It also helps us appreciate the fact that this indicator species is thriving at a time when good news about the climate is rare.

Why? The answer is simpler than you’d think.

“What the Bears Know” will be released Oct. 3. It is about the mystical and the sublime, our human frailties, and our unnecessary worries.

It’s also about bears. They never panic. They seldom fear. What can we learn from that?

We prefer you buy at the bookstores, so they benefit from hosting. If you can’t make it out to one of the signing, click here to order online.

Where We’ll Be

Please join co-author Steve Searles and me for book talks and signings of “What the Bears Know” on the following dates:

Tuesday Oct. 3, Vroman’s on Colorado, 7 p.m., free.

Wednesday Oct. 4, Barnes & Noble at The Grove, 7 p.m., free

Friday Oct. 6, {pages} a bookstore in Manhattan Beach, 7 p.m., a ticketed event that includes a copy of the book (for info, click here).

Saturday Oct. 7, Mammoth Lakes Library, 2 p.m., free.

If you’d like to book an appearance or for your bookstore or group, please email Letters@ChrisErskineLA.com


“This gorgeous, funny, deeply humane story is precisely what we need in this moment—a reminder of our animal instincts, our better angels, and our responsibility to honor and hold the two in harmony.” Chicago columnist Heidi Stevens

“I literally had to force myself to put it down so it wouldn’t end so soon. … ‘What the Bears Know’ is an emotional and spiritual journey about living with bears, how to coexist with them, and their deeply mystical history and demeanor. I’m not sure which touched me more, the stories about the bears, or the stories about Steve. It is educational for all of us that live in the ever-increasing bear country of the foothills. Reader Lucy Esterly

Excerpt I

From the book:

“There isn’t anything I won’t try. Fanatical? Too weak a word for me at this point. To understand the bears, I even decide to crawl into their dens. Takes me a while to find the courage to cross the threshold, but I do it. The first time I try, I fear they will rip my spleen out. Merely finding a den is tricky, let along summoning the nerve to poke my head inside.


Excerpt II

“In a short time, I realize that the bears are very, very smart. … That apple core he picks out of your trash—he loves that. He can tell if you used mouthwash that morning, snuck a candy bar, or kissed the baby. The apple core gives him more information than a two-sided business card. You’re having a conversation with the animal: ‘Here’s what I like, here’s how I live,’ and every Thursday—trash day—he learns a little more. Brilliantly, he just connects the dots.”

A Few Notes of Thanks

Bravo to the folks at Pegasus Books and Simon & Schuster for embracing this book.

Thanks to the book sellers and stores that have supported it, as well as the media outlets that have aimed their spotlights our way.

Also, a big shoutout to the photographers who graced our book with their work, from Carroll-Sue Jones’ lovely cover shot to the inside work of Jones, Tim Bartley, Heather Kemper, Ellen Fox, Skip George, Henry Gembitz, Jim Thomsen, Cynthia Hayes, Brooke Hartnett and Mike Dacosta. They brought this book to life.

A big note of appreciation to the residents of Mammoth Lakes, who recognized the importance of Steve’s work in enhancing the presence of bears in their community.

And to you, the reader.

16 thoughts on “What’s That Bear Doing in My Hot Tub? (and other insights into the ursine world)

  1. I am so excited that Bear Book Time is finally here! Autumn seems like the perfect time to curl up with this book. Sounds even more amazing than I had imagined!

    1. Hi Caroll. You’re right about the timing. The bears are in a feeding frenzy right now in preparation for five months of hibernation. By Halloween, the Eastern Sierra bears will “go to den” to avoid the epic snows. Our local bears don’t have to deal with that.

  2. A book is such a stunning, echoing achievement when it drops: whole, substantial, breathless and breathtaking, an achievement of the human spirit. I cannot wait to read it. How swell! I bow low…

  3. I want to apologize. I did something I swore I’d NEVER do! Several months ago I excitedly ordered the book from Amazon! Lost my head! I’m a regular Customer at Vroman’s. Please forgive me. The good news is that the book will be delivered on 10/4!

      1. I blame everything on being old and confused. Another good one is “spell check changed it and I didn’t notice.”

  4. Can’t wait to attend the book buying & signing at The Grove!
    Bringing 2 fellow admirers , dinner & drinks prior , of course!
    So glad Steve is coming out of the mountains for this new adventure .
    We were buds in Mammoth , circa ‘80 – ‘81 , looking forward to seeing his smile again!

  5. L.A. At Autumn

    A vast bowl of pointillist decisions
    Awaits the speeding spider eye
    At night the streets thrust hazy glitter
    Into the sky to the purple incline
    Of the dusty peaks, the stars’ tiara
    Rouge with the flesh of reflection
    Niches of green slash palms and shadows
    Like island oases—gems in the dark
    While the hum of the night remembers
    The day’s freeway roar—continuous echo
    For autumn is harvest, ever wanting more;

    Up on Sunset smiles flash with precision
    In restaurants steel and chrome flame and fly
    Like conversation’s bright metallic chatter
    The polish of apples in their design—
    A glint of beauty—Summer’s last hurrah
    That falls, like fame, in time’s direction;;
    Flipping a coin with no edge now we go
    To the west side, fantasy’s beach and palm park
    Here autumn pours cream on glowing embers
    Vermillion sunsets plate the ocean’s glow
    And freighter haze with an appled core…

    Of white light mornings now, that fade
    To the rusty oranges deep in the shade
    Of the coastal hills, slumbering
    In hollow light—their dreams encumbering
    That stretches haze far out to sea
    The surf still warm with Summer’s plea
    For energy, and in the valleys now
    A hint of spice is in the slow
    Cooling of the evening breeze
    Even twilight must feelsthe squeeze
    And over the turbulence at the last
    A splash of umber: Fall’s spell is cast..

    …waiting for the book to fall, like Fall, into my head….

  6. Gonna see u at Vroman’s.  Look for a mime, flip-flops, dressed as a clown, exploding cigar. 

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