Built to Burn

Tales of the Desert Carnies of Burning Man

About the Book

Built to Burn: Tales of the Desert Carnies of Burning Man tells the story of how Tony, a San Francisco blues musician, became Coyote, builder of Burning Man’s legendary city in the desert, and how he came to lead a ragtag band of circus runaways, freaks and geeks that would become its Department of Public Works.

An essential Burning Man origin story, BUILT TO BURN chronicles the wild uncertainty and creative chaos of the early days in the desert, when the event’s future was under constant threat and the organizers were making everything up as they went along. It’s a tale of struggle and survival, of friends made and friends lost, as Coyote and his misfit crew battle raging storms, crazed livestock, angry townsfolk and each other, locking horns with the real-life cowboys, Indians, outlaws and outcasts of Nevada’s high desert frontier.

Told with wry humor and a bit of cowboy philosophy, BUILT TO BURN invites the reader to experience Burning Man as it was before it got civilized, when it was as wild and untamed as anything out of the Old West.

Available to order in paperback, audiobook and ebook.


“…went down so good, like a frothy margarita guzzled from a cracked Tiki mug in the middle of a long hot dusty day.”
—Erik Davis, author, High Weirdness

“Tony Perez, a man of uncommon parts, is a born storyteller with an epic tale to tell. However you think you know Burning Man—as a believer or a skeptic—Built to Burn will recalibrate your compass.”
—Neil Shister, author of Radical Ritual: How Burning Man Changed the World

“Raucous, outlandish, and riveting, Tony ‘Coyote’ spins a yarn that could only have really happened at Burning Man.”
—Jennifer Raiser, author, Burning Man: Art on Fire​

“A must-read for burners and burner curious alike as it captures the birth and struggle of our community in the desert.”
—Chip Conley, author and founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and Fest 500

“Despite my brother (Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey)’s renown as “the spark,” Burning Man has never been a top-down phenomenon. At its deepest core, Burning Man is built upon the toil and sweat of a thousand often unacknowledged souls sweltering in the dust and sun to create something greater than themselves. At the center of that effort is a dedicated gang of rowdy reprobates known as the DPW (Department of Public Works). At the center of the center is Tony Coyote.

“Recreating something from nothing requires a volatile mix of incredibly hard work and high octane spirits. In the process, they formed a community of rowdy builders who muscled, blundered, and cavorted their way to ragged glory. Without them, there would be no Black Rock City. These are Tony’s tales of that glory. Some are tall, others taller, but they all manifest a sacred truth: nothing legendary is achieved easily or without an abundance of laughter.”
—Stewart Harvey, author & photographer, Playa Fire: Spirit and Soul at Burning Man

About the Author

Tony “Coyote” Perez came to San Francisco from Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1979, and forged a living as a singer and sax player for well over a decade before he started building the cities of Burning Man in 1996. He soon became the City Superintendent of Black Rock City (BRC), supervising the production of the city infrastructure, and was part of the founding management of its Department of Public Works.

Long considered the “Bard of the Desert,” he works year ‘round for Burning Man, and was the first recipient of its Storytelling Fellowship for his many tales of the history and the inner workings of the event and its culture. He resides in San Francisco with his wife and twin sons.


For a review copy or to offer this book for sale: publishing@burningman.org

To contact the author: coyote@burningman.org

Purchasing Details

Available to order in paperback, audiobook, and ebook.
Published by Burning Man Project
Price: $6.43
ISBN: 978-1734965902
Size: Trade paperback