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.

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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:

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“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”


Only in e.

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“Except maybe all the ones she put in jail, and sometimes I’m not so sure about them.”

The Collected Short Stories…although this dentist she took me to in Anchorage, Dorman, was okay, even if he was way too tan to be an Alaskan. He likes Kate, I can tell, but then every man she’s ever met likes her. Except maybe all the ones she put in jail, and sometimes I’m not so sure about them. Except if she’s never had a cavity I don’t know why she needs her own dentist. She sure was awful quick to get us on a plane when I got my toothache. Here’s the grossest picture I could find of a cavity on the Internet. Looks like a miniature of the Hellmouth.

—“The Eyak Interpreter”


Only in e.

On Amazon.comAmazon.ukAmazon.auiTunesBarnes & Noble and Kobo.