The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 7

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.


7 – Golden crowned sparrow

Although you people are killing me here, being all over the map as you are (the 747 engine! the bear! the pickup! the Cat! snow machines!) the most votes are for the sparrow.


We call it the “spring is here” bird, because it is when you first hear the notes of its song. Listen to it here.

It’s my favorite bird, singing the first bird song I ever recognized. Not to sound too precious, but it chose itself to manifest as the voice of Everybody Talks to Her, aka Emaa. I had no idea it would become a leitmotif of the Kate Shugak novels. One of those gifts from the writing gods.

Also, FYI, every single one of the bear stories in Breakup is true. Kate going backwards up the creek bank in full retreat from a pissed-off sow? That would have been my dad.

Next month, an object from Killing Grounds, the eighth Kate Shugak mystery. Please put your suggestions for said object in the comments below, and thanks!

Killing Grounds cover

The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 5

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.

Play With Fire cover

5 – The hunter’s tunic

The votes are in, and although there was a strong minority in favor of the morel mushroom, in the end Arlene’s comment made the case for this fifth object.

…It was made of caribou hide, tanned to ivory. Red, white and blue beads were worked around the collar in a pattern that sort of resembled the Russian Orthodox cross, or maybe those were birds, Kate wasn’t sure. The seams at shoulder, armhole and underarms were heavily fringed and hung with dyed porcupine quills. Dentalium shells gleamed from a sort of a breastplate, and something in the order in which they were sewn to the hide hinted at the shape of a fish. You could see the fish better if you didn’t look straight at the design.

In 1988 the Smithsonian mounted an exhibit called “Crossroads of Continents,” a collection of old and new artifacts from Native life from Siberia and Alaska. They brought it to the Anchorage Museum, and I went back to see it I don’t know how many times. I bought the book, too, which you will pry from my cold, dead hands. It’s the best written and best illustrated exhibit book I’ve ever seen.

Crossroads of Continents

Regalia, harpoons, visors, grease bowls, blankets, baskets, drums, masks, and the stories behind them all–it was the class in Native art and technology they should have taught us in school and never did. And yes, it’s where I saw my first hunter’s tunic, which was the inspiration for the hunter’s tunic in Play With Fire.

hunter's tunic

Next month, an object from Blood Will Tell, the sixth Kate Shugak mystery. Please put your suggestions for said object in the comments below, and thanks!

Blood Will Tell cover


The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 1

And now, for something completely new and different—

Beginning today and the first Wednesday of every month for the next twenty months I will be posting a series of blog posts called “A History of Kate Shugak in Twenty Objects.” Each object will come from the book displayed that month. A Fatal Thaw will be April’s book, Dead in the Water will be May’s book, and like that.

[Click here for a list of the Kate Shugak novels in order.]

I’m picking the first object, obviously. But for the next 19 months, Danamaniacs are invited to leave suggestions for next month’s object. I’ll pick my favorite of your suggestions and it will go up here the first Wednesday of the following month.

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here. Continue reading

Seldovia Slough (Alaska)

Snerts: File down your fingernails.

Folks have asked for instructions on how to play Snerts.

Snerts is a multiple-player Solitaire game. Yes, really. You need at least four players to make it really fun.

Continue reading

Sea chanties

A number of readers have expressed interest in the sea chanty Kate sings in Dead in the Water. The last time someone asked I promised to post the lyrics, so here goes:

Continue reading


“The General says he wants you.”

The Collected Short StoriesTHE CALL CAME IN on Kate’s cell phone too early on a Monday morning. She was up but not necessarily coherent. “What?”

“It’s Kurt Pletnikof, Kate.”

“Your name on the display was the only reason I answered,” she said. “What?”

“Victor Boatwright’s son is missing.” Steam rose from her first mug of the day, stopped halfway to her mouth as she stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows on the south side of her house. The Quilak Mountains were as yet only a ghostly presence against the light of the rising sun. “Kate?”

“Then find him,” she said. “It’s what you do.”

“I did just mention that to him,” he said. “The General says he wants you.”

—”Any Taint of Vice”


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