Author Mark Spitzer is a writing professor who's written 30 books, including "Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West."

A radio program about “the phantom in your own backyard” debuts Friday on KUAR’s Arts and Letters Radio, based on professor Mark Spitzer’s environmental nonfiction book “Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West.”

The 7 p.m. broadcast “spotlights a slimy, squiggly, mystery fish that exists in our midst, though they’re rarely seen or ever caught,” the press release teases. The 52-minute show “highlights Spitzer’s experience stalking and sampling eels in Central Arkansas. With assistance from biologist Casey Cox and fishing buddy Scotty “Goggle Eye” Lewis, who are interviewed and appear in the episode, Spitzer studies the fascinating folklore, history and science of Anguilla rostrata. He also makes a pet of one, which does not work out well.”


Author Mark Spitzer tries to make a pet out of an eel. Don’t try this at home.

The show is produced by Arts & Letters Radio, an educational program promoting the humanities and literary arts in Arkansas and beyond. Listeners will gain a new understanding about conservation efforts and the eel species’ struggle to survive, host J. Bradley Minnick said.


“Whether you love or hate the idea of eels, this episode has amazing music by Amyjo Savannah and Emmy-award composer Silas Hite. This music brings us into the world of ‘Fire hydrant,’ an eel that Mark captured and studied, and ‘Malvern,’ an eel that didn’t fare so well. In sympathizing with its plight, we actually learn more about ourselves,” Minnick said.

If you miss out Friday, there will be more chances to listen. From the release:


This newly produced radio show, hosted and edited by J. Bradley Minnick with assistance from Arts & Letters Radio producer Mary Ellen Kubit, will take listeners on an action-packed journey from the Sargasso Sea to the Ouachita River, where Spitzer wrestles a ferocious eel of unspeakable proportions. Both angler and eel are injured in the process, making for an epic fish battle to excite the imagination.


As noted in a recent review from Publisher’s Weekly, “Spitzer also provides philosophical musings on threats facing the ecosystem and on humankind’s challenge of living alongside other animals ‘conflict-free.’ It’s the juxtaposition of Spitzer’s thoughtful and adventurous sides that sets his book apart, making for a powerful mixture of entertaining wildlife jaunt and moving environmental advocacy,” qualities clearly echoed in this highly awaited Arts & Letters episode. 


Original music and soundscapes are by Amyjo Savannah, Silas Hite, Project Parallel, and The Satin Cowboy & The Seven Deadly Sins. The show will be rebroadcast on Sunday October 24 at 9:00 p.m. Following that broadcast, the Arts & Letters podcast can be accessed online at, iTunes, the NPR Podcast page, Google Podcast, iHeart Radio, and other podcast platforms.