The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 20

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.

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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.

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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.

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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.


This has been a lot of fun, guys. Thanks for playing, and for your insightful comments. You’re in danger of making me take myself seriously.

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About Kate21–I hope to have the first draft done in November (that or I can be found in a warm bath with an open vein). After which follows the editorial and design process. I’m looking at a pub date no later than March and I hope sooner. It will be a simultaneous publication in e, hardcover and trade paperback. Barbara Peters will be hosting an event for the hardcover signing at the Poisoned Pen. Sign up for the Roadhouse Report to be first in line for dates and times.

Aside

“…and enemies, which were legion.”

The Collected Short StoriesThe prosecution had rested the day before with an air of relief. The defense had recalled the investigating officer that morning, extracting without difficulty more evidence over time of many of Washington’s — the defense here coughed deprecatingly — family in the house at McKinley and Alder, as well as evidence of many more sets of smudged and partial prints not belonging to the defendants on the weapon. By the time the defense had excused the officer, opportunity had been extended to fifteen people, or more, if you included Da Prez’s friends, which were few, rivals, which were many, and enemies, which were legion.

—“Siren Song”

 

Only in e.

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The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 18

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.

 

Though Not Dead

winner of the 2012 Nero Award

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.

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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.

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Next month, an object from Restless in the Grave, the nineteenth Kate Shugak mystery and the return of Liam and Wy. Please put your suggestions for said object in the comments below, and thanks!

 

 

 

 

The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 17

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.

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The Suulutag mine, of course, and more specifically, gold, and most specifically of all, Alaska’s mineral resources.

Barry W Nugget edit

The largest gold nugget ever found in Alaska, 294.10 troy ounces, or a little over twenty pounds, or a little under $400,000 at today’s price per troy ounce.

I’m just going to cut and past Megan’s comment here

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because really, what else is there to say?

The Park’s Suulutaq mine is of course based on the Pebble Mine, the most controversial issue in Alaska today. It’s died down some since Pebble failed its EIS but I wouldn’t bet a wooden nickle against the chances of it heating up again if oil prices remain too long in the basement (cue the Donlin mine). As of the writing of this post the price of gold is $1,357.50 per troy ounce and climbing.

This is what we do in Alaska–we’re a resource extraction state; i.e., we pull stuff out. We pull stuff out of the water and we pull stuff out of the ground. It ties us to a boom-and-bust cycle we have yet to summon up the political will to change.

It’s easy to say let a beautiful place be, but the people who live there still have to eat. People like Kate, and the rest of the Park rats. All those dying villages along the Kanuyaq River in the books? They’re fictional, but there are plenty of real ones.

 

Though Not Dead

winner of the 2012 Nero Award

Next month, an object from Though Not Dead, the eighteenth Kate Shugak mystery and my favorite in the whole series. Please put your suggestions for said object in the comments below, and thanks!

The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 16

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.

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This was a hard one, specifically because of dueling recommendations for the copy of Robert’s Rules of Order Jim gave Kate for Christmas and the fishing line used to commit the murder. Megan said

[Jim] knew, in this instance how completely out of her element she was, and found a way to let her take back control for herself. Not through giving her authority, or patronizing her, but finding a tool that he could give her, that if she chose, she could use effectively to gain advantage.

Beverly agreed

The best means of teaching someone to do something is to give them the tools to do it with. It shows your faith in them and their ability.

And so did I, until Heather laid out a convincing argument for the fishing line

I also felt that the fishing line itself, is almost a metaphor for the Aunties. The fishing line keeps the drift nets together, much as the aunties keep The Park together. The fishing line is strong, it is tough, it is almost invisible as it does it’s job. The same can be said for the Aunties. They are strong, they are tough, and invisibly they are working behind the scenes in The Park (as well as out in front in Bernie’s Roadhouse), but they are the indelible force which holds the community together.

It is also the murder weapon. So the fishing line it is.

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PS–There are many stories of people stringing fishing line and even piano wire to discourage snowmobilers and ATVs from crossing private property, and not just in Alaska. Most are I’m sure apocryphal. Some are not. Like I keep telling you, I don’t have to make this stuff up.

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Next month, an object from A Night Too Dark, the seventeenth Kate Shugak mystery. Please put your suggestions for said object in the comments below, and thanks!

The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 15

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.

 

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I’m just gonna cut and paste Megan’s comment in its entirety here. As Penny said, she truly did drop the mike.

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My heart always breaks a little when I write about Willard. He is the innocent victim of a disease we see all too often here in Alaska. That doesn’t mean he can’t be manipulated to be dangerous. But it isn’t Vader he carries around in his pocket, it’s Anakin.

[PS–Willard, and Howie, that little weasel, return in Kate21. So you know.]

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

The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 13

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.

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There were some eloquent pleas for the glacier and the photo album in the comments, but the cabin has it. It was the cabin her father built to prove up on his homestead, it was where Stephan brought Zoya as his wife, it was where Kate was born, it was where she kept running away to when Emaa tried to move her into town after her parents’ deaths, it’s where Abel trusted her enough to go when she was a kid and not hurt herself, it’s where she ran to after she was nearly killed on the job in Anchorage, it’s where Jack found her again at the beginning of A Cold Day for Murder, and it’s where Jim began his search for her at the beginning of Midnight Come Again. Oh yeah, it’s all about the cabin.

Kate’s cabin was based on an actual cabin I stayed in when I was very young. I have googled madly to find something similar. Think this one with an extra story for a loft for a bedroom.

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And this one would be something like the one the Park rats built for her in the same location and that she lives in today.

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Those windows face south, with the Quilak Mountains on Kate’s left as she looks out and the Kanuyaq River valley unfolding down to an occasional glint of Prince William Sound in front of her. Zoya Creek, named for her mother, curls around the cabin to flow into the larger river.

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