No wonder I can never find the fourth book in Weber and Ringo’s Empire of Man series.
Warning: Spoilers spoken here.
Upon returning home from New York City in 1994, clutching A Cold Day for Murder‘s Edgar in a sweaty fist, almost the very first thing to appear in my mailbox was a letter from Tony Hillerman, requesting a short story for the collection he was editing, The Mysterious West (now included in my s/s anthology here). So I wrote “Nooses Give,” whose events occur before Kate1, and whose characters inspired the skeleton plot from which I fleshed out this rewrite of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It brought the Kate Shugak series full circle back to where it began, at least chronologically, with the bootlegger who started it all. It seemed appropriate for the twentieth book, something of a landmark in a crime fiction series, or it was for me.
Booze is the worm in Alaska’s apple and it’s one of the threads that runs throughout this series. It is, alas, very much based in fact. You can buy a bottle of R&R in Anchorage for $10 today and sell it for $300 in the Bush tomorrow.
Booze (and pop, too, another sugar-based liquid that will rot out your teeth and your liver) makes up a significant amount of the freight shipped into the Bush.
Kate’s not kidding when she says she would wish away every last drop of alcohol in Alaska if she could. Penny wrote, “Alcohol took Kate’s mother away from her and left her orphaned when she was only a small child. She sees it destroying the lives of her fellow park rats every day.”
Yep. Sorry to end the Object series on a downer, but booze is the object from Bad Blood.
Or it was on Monday. Reproduced here in full for your pre-ordering pleasure.
Edgar-winner Stabenow’s richly nuanced, highly entertaining 21st Kate Shugak mystery (after 2013’s Bad Blood) finds the Alaskan PI, who’s recovering from a gunshot wound she suffered months before, enjoying her solitude at her isolated cabin at the foot of the Quilak Mountains when some unwelcome visitors, who call themselves “orienteers,” pass by. One of them, a woman whose looks remind Kate of Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, seeks Kate’s aid after she tumbles off a ridge—and falls on a heap of human bones. The intrepid Kate packs up the scanty remains, which a variety of animals have picked clean, and heads for the nearest town. Soon a woman hires Kate to find her missing husband, and the plot goes off in some surprising directions from there. The book is sprinkled with wit, studded with exquisite descriptions of the rugged landscape, and filled with opinionated and endearing characters, including reality TV show producers, park rangers, geologists, and barkeeps. The dialogue is smart, authentic, and reminiscent of Elmore Leonard, had he trained his shrewdly ironic eye on the wilds of Alaska rather than the seamier side of Detroit. A line from a Robert Frost poem provided the title. (May)
And for those who prefer their books in print…
…I’ll be signing the hardcover edition
at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore
on May 6th.
And if you can’t make it in person, click here to order your very own copy.
The PP gang know how to stick on a stamp.
Ordering info for bookstores and libraries:
A bit of news that arrived in my inbox after the RR went out:
Warning: Spoilers spoken here.
It’s the Super Cub. Has to be. It’s basic transportation in Bush Alaska and in Kate19 it is also the murder weapon. (And even if you took all that away, there is that fabulous Head of Zeus cover above. Although if you’re taking off from an unfrozen lake you really should be on floats, not skis.)
This is my Dad in his Super Cub, Five-Zero-Papa, also known as The Hem’roid, because that’s what the Super Cub gives you when you spend a lot of time in the air in one. Dad was 6’4″ tall so he didn’t really climb into The Hem’roid so much as he put it on. If you were riding behind him, forget about seeing anything ahead, but he was always great about flying circles around anything he spotted that he knew you’d want to see out the side window, a black bear sow trying frantically to push her three cubs up a tree to get them away from the big bad airplane making noise overhead, two grizzlies slapping salmon out of the Theodore River, five moose sitting close together in a MatSu willow thicket, saving energy until the snow melted and the willow budded and there would be something for them to eat again.
If you’re an Alaskan pilot (more than 1 out of 100 of us are, have to be, 99 percent of the state has no roads) and you have a Super Cub there is almost nowhere you can’t land and almost no amount or kind of freight you can’t carry. I once saw a Super Cub take off down Seldovia Bay with 4X8 sheets of plywood strapped to both floats. Although Dad did quit hunting moose when he got The Hem’roid, because you can fit a whole caribou into the back of a Super Cub, whereas hauling out a moose takes more than one trip. Even as big an asshole as he was, Finn Grant was no dummy when it came to planes. Neither was his killer.
“…They were a very nasty couple. Bad type. Superstitious, like most crooks. She was the worst of the two, in my opinion. Tried to fix the job so’s it’d look as if the servants had done it. Do you recollect that, sir?”
“Yes,” said Alleyn slowly, “yes.”
“Mind,” said the constable warming a little, “I reckon if he hadn’t lost his nerve they’d have got away with it. No finger-printing in those days, you see. And you know how it’d be, sir. You don’t expect people of their class to commit murder.”
“No, you don’t. And with the weapons lying there beside these grooms or whatever they were, and so on, well the first thing anybody would have said was: ‘Here’s our birds.’ Not that there seemed to be anything like what you’d call an inquiry.’
“Not precisely,” said Alleyn.
“No, sir. No,” continued the constable, turning his back to the wind, “if Macbeth hadn’t got jumpy and mucked things up I reckon they’d have got away with it. They seemed to be well-liked people in the district. Some kind of royalty. Aristocratic like. Well, nobody suspects people of that class. That’s my point.”
My favorite take on Macbeth from Ngaio Marsh’s A Surfeit of Lampreys.
Although there is much to be said for the Reduced Shakespeare version, too.
Not to mention the Sassy Gay Friend. “A hobby or an orgasm, stat.”
“Did you read ‘Macbeth’?”
“I had to read it,” she said, “There wasn’t a scrap of anything else to read in the whole room.”
“Did you like it?” I asked.
“No, I did not,” she said, decisively. “In the first place, I don’t think for a moment that Macbeth did it.”
–The Macbeth Murder Mystery, James Thurber
Warning: Spoilers spoken here.
Man, I havered over this one. My pick going in was the secret drawer, or drawers, the one in Auntie Joy’s armoire that contained the manuscript, the one in Jim’s father’s writing desk that held the clue to his true parentage, and of course the one in Old Sam’s compass, which Kate probably wouldn’t have found if Jim hadn’t found the one in his father’s writing desk first. You could even include where Old Sam hid the map, not exactly a drawer but a pretty efficient hidey-hole for anyone who didn’t know him as well as Kate did.
The secret drawers are of course emblematic of all the secrets held by the Shugak family in the Park, the Bannister family in Anchorage, Jim’s family in California, maybe by all families everywhere. You have a family. You know the ones. Google images for secret drawers; you’ll find a million of ’em. Secret drawers aren’t exactly a secret. Secrets never are, either.
But then Ginger said
I love where Old Sam hides the map and that Kate knows how he would have hidden it once she saw the the special hiding place in her aunts china cabinet that Old Sam made for her.
and Megan agreed, and so did Mary and Jody and Helen, and then Arlene practically wrote a dissertation about all the possible objects, concluding
the more I thought about it, the more it came to me that the manuscript encompassed everything: the icon, the nugget, Old Sam’s history, Auntie Joy’s history, the map, even if some of them are not explicitly mentioned in it…and all those things, one way or another, went toward making Kate who she is, even if she only learned about them in the course of this book.
This was a tough one.
I’m sticking with the secret drawers. After which I can be found hiding out under my bed.
Though Not Dead is my favorite of all the books I have ever written. I got to tell the last hundred years of Alaskan history through the eyes of a single character, something I’ve always wanted to do, and I got to send Kate on a scavenger hunt, which was a lot of fun, and then after I sent Jim off to California to get him out of the way he up and had an unexpected life of his own, which is always a gift from the writing gods. And then there is one of my favorite Kate scenes ever
The SUV was the second car back from the corner, behind the same electric pink Cadillac Seville that Kate had slipped in front of when it stalled out. It was driven by a woman with big hair who wore a sparkler on her right hand that gave out a series of blinding flashes as she tapped her hand on the steering wheel to Van Halen. She was still talking on her cell phone. The bass reverberated all the way back to the Subaru. The arrow was red but she was looking left at oncoming traffic, waiting for a gap to pull into.
Kate looked left and willed the driver of the white Bronco to look her way before the light turned green. He, too, was talking on his cell phone. She rolled down her window. “Hey! Hey, mister!”
He looked up and then over at her. She gave him her most dazzling smile and goosed the Subaru ahead a couple of inches, nodding at the lane.
He responded with a scowl and pulled up to within a whisker of the chrome bumper of the ancient Buick Skylark in front of him.
The light turned green. The electric pink Cadillac Seville started to turn, the SUV snarling bad-temperedly right behind it.
She looked back at the man in the Bronco, who was watching at her with a smirk on his face. He was still talking on his cell phone. Hell, every second person at this intersection was talking on their cell phone.
Kate grabbed the hem of her T-shirt and yanked it up to her neck and this time didn’t bother with the smile.
The smirk vanished. His cell phone dropped from his hand and his foot slipped off the clutch. The Bronco lurched and stalled. An older man in a panel truck in the lane next to him had seen the whole thing and was laughing so hard he had tears streaming down his face. She threw him his very own spine-melter of a smile as she pulled her T-shirt back down and slipped in behind the Skylark, which was already put-putting up to the light. She made it onto Tudor just as the light changed back to red, six cars behind the SUV.
Kate knows how to get the job done. Okay, enough with the bragging.