Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A New One from Straley

I really like the Cecil Younger mysteries penned by Sitka author John Straley. I've lived in Southeast Alaska for 20 years, and while I have never consciously tried to articulate what it's like to live here, as soon as I read my first Straley novel I knew that he had nailed it. I would like to think my life isn't quite as bleak as Younger's, but I've known plenty of characters in Ketchikan who are barely keeping their chins above water. But it's been a few years since Straley has published a novel, and so I'm very happy to announce that we have a brand new creation of his on our shelves: The Big Both Ways. It's a departure from the Cecil Younger series. While much of it takes place along the Inside Passage, the time is 1935 and Alaska is still just a territory. It's got a wonderful period feel, and it makes the most of the lawlessness and rough living that was standard not just for Alaska but also for Seattle, a working-class industrial port. A dead body in a car trunk, Union thugs, a chase through the wilderness (a slow chase via rowing dory), logging camps, and Creek Street whorehouses fill the pages of this novel with a great picture of pre-statehood Alaska. The characters are wonderful and the whole thing just drips with atmosphere. Like all of Straley's novels, the pleasure of this book isn't in the ending, it's in the journey you take to get there.

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