“Crime fiction doesn’t get much better than this.”


Less Than a Treason (Head of Zeus, 9781786695697) receives a STARRED review in the May 1, 2017 issue.

When Aleut PI Kate Shugak is shot in the chest at close range, trooper Jim Chopin, her lover, is wracked with guilt for not killing her assailant sooner. [redacted, spoilers] When human bones are found near her retreat, Kate returns to Niniltna, where most locals thought she was dead, and resumes working. [redacted, spoilers, don’t bother with a FOIA request] Starting a Kate Shugak book is like going somewhere everybody knows your name, given the warmth and familiarity of the Niniltna cast, even to readers new to the series. The twenty-first series installment, this sequel to Bad Blood (2013) maintains Stabenow’s reputation for concise prose, pithy dialogue, full bodied characters, and intriguing plotting. Crime fiction doesn’t get much better than this.
— Michele Leberkate21-cover-art

May 6, 2017

Kate21 in all her silk bookmark beribboned glory. With author.

me and Kate21 hc

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Less Than a Treason,

aka the 21st Kate Shugak novel,

publishes May 6th.


The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 17

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.

HoZ Kate17

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.

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


The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 10

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.

HoZ Kate10

It’s the Herc. Has to be.

C-130 Hercules

In service since the 1950s, designed originally for troop transport in war zones, it is also one of the sturdiest and most reliable workhorses for transport of freight and heavy equipment into Bush Alaska, home to more rough gravel airstrips than just about anywhere else. They are common to Alaskan skies–I see one or more every day on their way to doing touch-and-goes at Homer Airport. Admittedly, it took a long time to find a pilot who would agree to putting a Herc into a flat spin, even if it was just in his own imagination. When I finally did, I stopped asking and wrote the scene.

A few years after Midnight Come Again was published, I was invited to ride along on the Alaska Air National Guard’s Operation Santa Claus, the annual trip they make to Savoonga. I even got to ride up front for a bit. Earplugs are advised.

And here’s the Kate Shugak history lesson I promised you last month–

Hunter’s Moon was very nearly the last Kate Shugak novel, not because Kate was done living her life but because my publisher lowballed me on the next contract offer. I like to eat, and a roof is good, too, and neither was possible with that offer. As far as I was concerned, the Kate Shugak series was done.

Meanwhile, across town, the lovely and talented Kelley Ragland, she of St. Martin’s Minotaur, heard on the wind that Kate might be homeless. It turned out she was Kate’s biggest fan, so she contacted my agent and made an offer that allowed for food and lodging. For the first time in my career I was making a decent living, and later, under Kelley’s care, Kate was hitting the New York Times bestseller list. Now I’m working on the twenty-first novel in the series.

Our hero.

Our hero.

None of it would have happened without Kelley Ragland. If there is a particular novel between Kate10 and Kate20 you like, thank her for it.

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

The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 9

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.

Hunter's Moon GDP cover art

This time it was almost unanimous. It’s Kate’s braid.

This braid graciously provided by my niece, Angelique. She's not going to cut hers off, though.

Photo of braid graciously provided by my niece, Angelique. She’s not going to cut hers off, though.


Marty hit the nail head on in her comment. Kate seldom does anything for only one reason. That braid was just too convenient a handle by which to be dragged around, and Kate gives no edge to the bad guys. Even more important in that moment, and as many of you pointed out, a woman cutting her hair is a sign of mourning in many cultures.

Besides, shorter hair is easier to care for, and Kate practices pragmatism like she took a vow. Easy, expedient, practical, these are words by which she lives.

And let’s face it, she’s not the vainest person you ever met. Her self image is not bound up in her hair.

Although I love Megan’s vote for duct tape. It does indeed bind the universe together. I mean, have you seen The Martian?

I like Laura’s comment about hunting, too. I visited the Purdey store in London back in the day. My ambition was to buy a pair of Purdey shotguns for my father, but he died before I could save up enough money. They were very nice to me in spite of my jeans and tennis shoes, and it was lovely to at least dream big there for a while.

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