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Less Than a Treason,
aka the 21st Kate Shugak novel,
publishes May 6th.
Warning: Spoilers spoken here.
The Suulutag mine, of course, and more specifically, gold, and most specifically of all, Alaska’s mineral resources.
I’m just going to cut and past Megan’s comment here
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.
My friend Kerri forced me to get Stephen King’s On Writing. I almost never read books about writing any more because it’s just too much like work, and besides, after Strunk and White, what more needs to be said?. I was in no hurry to read it, but after a year and a half guilt finally moved it off the to-read pile.
Started it. Enjoyed his life story. Liked Bill Bryson‘s better.
He reveres The Elements of Style, okay, he’s showing me something.
He thinks adverbs are the mark of a lazy writer, me, too.
His life story went fast, and now I’m bogged down in the how to write part. Too much like work. I’m going to stick to it at least until the scene where he’s laying on the side of the road thinking, “OMG, I’ve been run over by one of my characters,” which of course I’ve heard about, as who hasn’t.
Two days later:
Okay, time to stop whining. This is a good book. It is in fact (oh, he’d smack my hand for that phrase) three good books, or novellas, if such a term may be used to describe non-fiction. The first is his life story, the second is a primer on the craft of writing, and the third is the account of his close encounter of the van-crazy-guy-and-Rottweiler kind. The first is entertaining as hell, the third is entertaining and scary as hell, and the middle section, the section on craft is honest, practical and hard-nosed as hell. And also entertaining.
I like everything he said about craft because I agree with all of it. “The best form of dialogue attribution is said.” “You should avoid the passive tense.” “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Simple, direct, absolute, I’d go farther than King and say that these are rules that should be tattooed backwards on the foreheads of all beginning authors so they see them every time they look in the mirror.
What I really like here is that he takes craft so seriously, because he loves it. He is in love with writing, with storytelling, with the written word, in love even with the way it looks on the page. He cares that we do the best job we can. “I don’t believe a story or a novel should be allowed outside the door of your study or writing room unless you feel confident that it’s reasonably reader-friendly.”
What he said. Thanks, Kerri.
Warning: Spoilers spoken here.
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.
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.
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.
Warning: Spoilers spoken here.
I’m just gonna cut and paste Megan’s comment in its entirety here. As Penny said, she truly did drop the mike.
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.]
The 21st Kate Shugak novel, coming May 6, 2017.
Of the first two Sarah Tolerance novels I wrote on this site
Miss Sarah Tolerance elopes with her brother’s fencing instructor from Regency England to the continent, and when he dies returns home. Cast off by her family, she determines to make her way in the world without falling into prostitution, the usual fallback of the Fallen Woman, and instead sets herself up as an Agent of Inquiry. Setting, plot and especially character are all excellent in Point of Honor and Petty Treason by Madeleine E. Robins. Trust me, you will believe a woman can be a PI in England in 1810.
The Sleeping Partner, the third in the series, may be the best yet. Take the first paragraph.
No one who had seen Miss Sarah Brereton as a child would have taken her for a heroine. She was a well-behaved girl, affectionate and active, given to rolling hoops and running races with the gardener’s children. Her upbringing was neither intellectual or revolutionary, being designed to make her what she was destined to be: the well-bred wife of a gentleman of means. That she had failed to achieve this goal was not the fault of her family but derived from some flaw in her character: at sixteen, Miss Brereton had fallen in love with her brother’s fencing master and eloped, ruining forever her chances at respectability and marriage. Seeking to contain the damage, Sir William Brereton disowned his daughter and forbade to have her name mentioned. With the girl as good as dead, the honor of the Breretons was restored to a near-unsullied state. The family went on much as before.
No wonder Sarah changed her name, and no wonder what she changed it to. Editors give authors hell over backstory in series novels, and they’re right to do so because first timers to the series need to know what’s going on. That first paragraph is an exemplar of craft, placing the main character precisely in her place and time, and fun to read besides. Impossible not to turn the page, where not very much farther on in the narrative Sarah uses her sword to spank a bully with a club. Heroine, it turns out, was exactly the right word.
By now Sarah is well-established as an Agent of Inquiry, and is approached at her club, Tarsio’s, by a potential client.
…Corton appeared beside her and murmured that a lady was inquiring for her.
“What sort of lady?” She would see her visitor regardless, but often found the porter’s impressions useful.
“A real lady, miss. A bit anxious about the eyes.”
A real lady in a state of anxiety bode well for business and thus for Miss Tolerance’s pocket-book. She directed Corton to bring the visitor up.
The anxious lady’s sister is missing and she hires Sarah to find her, and Sarah is plunged in to a maelstrom of betrayal, theft, treason and murder that threatens her physically and emotionally, and which drags her willy-nilly back into her family, that same family which booted her out so unceremoniously so many years before. In the course of events we meet old friends
Joshua Glebb’s head, bald, with a long fringe of yellowed hair circling the back, shone in the dusty light from the far window. His entire being appeared to be in the process of succumbing slowly to gravity; his mouth turned down, and his chin, shoulders and gut all looked to be making a slow progress downward until they would puddle around his boot-sole. Until that should happen, Mr. Glebb resembled a fussy and dyspeptic head clerk, respectably dressed and sour of expression. His mouth attained–not a smile, but an absence of frown–when he looked up at Miss Tolerance, and his shrewd eyes lit.
and make new ones, like the missing girl’s governess, Miss Nottingale.
“…That morning, in fact, she was reading a political essay Mr. John Thorpe had given her.” She paused. “Lord Lyne did not like it.”
“What was the essay?”
“A Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mrs. Godwin.”
“And she was reading this at breakfast?” That seemed to Miss Tolerance enough to put anyone off their meal.
Oh yes, we’ll meet Mrs. Godwin, aka Mary Wollstonecraft, later. Sir Walter Mandif, magistrate, returns, too
“I confess I am enjoying the sight of you within my walls without bandages.”
Highly recommended, all three of them, and my fingers are crossed for more.