The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 8

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.

Killing Grounds cover

I so wanted it to be the halibut heart because of Megan’s wonderful comment, but the fish wheel came on strong in the end and wiped out the competition. I found lots of video showing fish wheels in action on YouTube.

Fish wheels are common on Alaskan rivers. The fish caught are a primary food source, they’re dog food, they’re sold for the fuel necessary to keep Bush Alaskans warm through the winter. They are subject to wear and tear from the force of the water, chunks of ice during breakup, and deadheads, uprooted trees being pushed downriver, moving fast and hitting hard. (There is also enemy action, as some of you may remember from the Kate Shugak short story, “Cherchez la Femme.”)

The aunties’ problems with the fish hawk are loosely based on the real-life problems of Katie John of Mentasta.

Photo by Erik Hill, Alaska Dispatch News

Photo by Erik Hill, Alaska Dispatch News

The toughest broad in a state of tough broads, Katie John single-handedly wrestled both state and federal governments to the ground in the matter of Alaska Natives fishing on their historic fishing grounds. Man, just writing those words brings a grin to my face. Read her obituary here.


kate21-cover-artThe 21st Kate Shugak novel, coming May 6, 2017.


35 thoughts on “The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 8

  1. Julie Jones says:

    Oh my! I can’t read this book without crying my eyes out. Object: Mutt, for staying with Jack and guarding his body for Kate. I know Mutt is not an object, but that scene (and Kate holding Jack’s body) are foremost in my mind when I think about “Hunter’s Moon.”

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  2. Jodi Darby says:

    My first thought was Jack, but I couldn’t really think of him as an object, rather an enduring memory. (still mad at you btw, not getting over it) My vote for key object for Hunter’s Moon is Kate’s braid, which–though referenced in following books–remains with this book, like Jack.

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  3. Marty says:

    I’m with Jodi on Kate’s braid. Was going to post it but felt as an “object” it was questionable. A most significant move on Kates part as 1, many native women cut their hair as a sign of mourning and 2, the German bastard was dragging her by it to rape her! 2 votes for her braid!

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  4. Janice says:

    Kate’s braid was the first object I thought of. Kate cutting her hair is one of the most powerful storylines in the whole series.

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  5. Judy says:

    Kate’s hair/braid was also my first thought. Haven’t re-read HM for couple of years, but other items that come to mind are the special rifles they brought with them; or the emergency barrel that was sabotaged (don’t remember what other name it’s called). Guess I need to re-read and refresh.
    I was glad to hear you are about ready to start the serious writing on next Kate. I tell folks about your books & how (after the good read) they just really bring Alaska alive.
    Do you have plans to write any more Coast Guard-related ‘thrillers’? Those 2 are my Dad’s favorites of all your books so far. (He just celebrated his 90th in June.)

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  6. Judy says:

    [crap just typed comment and it disappeared, ok, re-type it -is there a character limit??] I also think first of Kate’s hair/braid. It’s been a couple of years since I re-read HM, but other items that come to mind are the special rifles, boxes of ammunition, and that emergency barrel that was sabotaged (can’t recall name of it). Didn’t Kate also use a pocket knife? hers or Jack’s?

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  7. Katherine M. in Austin says:

    Never been able to re-read this one. I know storylines go where they go, but this one hurt. Pretty invested in these characters. I too vote for Kate’s braid. One of the most powerful and moving moments in the series.

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  8. Peggy Belew says:

    Kate’s braid, Jack was dead and she had to not only round up his killer but find out what had happened to the rest of her friends. She sat down to get herself together and the last thing she did was reach back, cut off her hair and she didn’t look back, at least not til later.

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  9. Peggy Belew says:

    One more comment, Hunters Moon is one of my favorite Kate books. She was having such a good time. Yes I was sad Jack died but because I came in late, I already knew it was coming so I think that made it easier for me.

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  10. Megan says:

    I’m bucking the crowd again, and Kate’s braid is compelling, but it has to be the duct tape. It has a light side and a dark side, it binds the universe together, and it is the most versatile stuff in the world, and absolutely essential to this book.

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  11. Her braided hair. The decision to never allow that to happen again was very powerful. Also, a book I have had a hard time rereading. Read it once. Listened to the audiobook once. Doubt I can push through that one again.

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  12. Susan Doran says:

    I agree with all of the above regarding the braid. The incident of Kate cutting her braid and why is so powerful. She never explains to anyone why, not ever. We the readers know her reasoning/secret but the other characters don’t. It is such a significant part of Kate’s story for me and oh so moving and powerful. She was down and out, Jack was dead (yep heart breaks here again) but she brushes herself off and gets back up to do what needs doing and leaves her grieving for later. What a strong person.

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  13. Laura says:

    While the braid was the first thing to come to my mind, and I’d forgotten about the duct tape. I had to re-read and dig deeper. Surprisingly, it was not as traumatic the second time around.

    For me, this one’s about ‘hunting.’ Hunter’s Moon addresses different philosophies or drives: subsistence, trophy, sport, carnal, predatory, mercenary, hunting for vengeance…

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      • Megan says:

        Easy–the Purdey shotguns. Symbolizes everything about the hunters: Dieter has more money than sense and he uses it to force people into watching him flaunt it and otherwise show off. Those guns are all at once trophy, sport, carnal, predatory, mercenary, and vengeance hunting. Also, not that it’ll matter much in the final count, I’m with Laura on this one.

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      • Laura says:

        I understand. It is a hard object to illustrate. Around here (SW CO), this time of year (elk season), it sure is the object of everyone’s desire—not just the hunters themselves but all the businesses vying for their bucks. I like Megan’s suggestion of the Purdeys. I’m not a gun owner, but they sure are ‘purty’.

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  14. Harry [Doc] Dawkins says:

    The hell with objects- let’s just say that HUNTER’S MOON was my favorite book in the series for many years. I do recall reading one of the more recent ones and thinking it was now my favorite, but I’m getting old and can’t remember which one it was. Speaking of getting old, I can’t wait forever for more Kate books. The trilogy you just wrote should have been in addition to- NOT instead of. So there!
    xox, Doc in Pittsburgh

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  15. Sharon in Surrey says:

    I read Hunter’s Moon & was so shocked that I’ve never been able to read it again. It’s the only one I never bought as an audio too. The Purdys were my first gut reaction but this is about Kate, so the Braid has to be it. Like the scar on her throat, Kate is defined by her braid.

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  16. Arlene Fell says:

    (I haven’t yet read the other comments, as I didn’t want to be influenced by them.)

    Kate’s braid. By the time we get to this book, we have a really vivid mental image of what Kate looks like, and that long, straight, often-braided black hair is a major part of the image. I couldn’t help but notice, on this reread, how much time Jack spends playing with her hair, even once braiding it for her, and how often Kate herself twists it up out of the way, off her neck…it seemed to me, being on the alert for some significant object in the book, that her hair might just be it.
    And then, when she cuts it off, superficially it is so that it can’t be used against her again, but there’s a deeper meaning. Mutilating oneself is a sign of mourning in many cultures, and, make no mistake, this is mutilation and mourning. The cutting can also be seen as severing Kate’s life in two: what it has been until now, and what it will be as she goes forward, bearing a grief unlike anything she has known before.

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  17. Juanita E. Serrato says:

    Awesome books. Can’t wait for Book 21. I have them all on Audio and listen to them over and over. Keep up the great work!!!!!

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