The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 7

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.


7 – Golden crowned sparrow

Although you people are killing me here, being all over the map as you are (the 747 engine! the bear! the pickup! the Cat! snow machines!) the most votes are for the sparrow.


We call it the “spring is here” bird, because it is when you first hear the notes of its song. Listen to it here.

It’s my favorite bird, singing the first bird song I ever recognized. Not to sound too precious, but it chose itself to manifest as the voice of Everybody Talks to Her, aka Emaa. I had no idea it would become a leitmotif of the Kate Shugak novels. One of those gifts from the writing gods.

Also, FYI, every single one of the bear stories in Breakup is true. Kate going backwards up the creek bank in full retreat from a pissed-off sow? That would have been my dad.

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


Sex First, Then Religion

Okay, we tackled sex (go here to read that post and the umpteen comments it generated). How about religion?

and god saidI am in receipt of an essay written by a retired Episcopal priest from Kansas, giving me a polite thumping for the view of religion in Play With Fire, the fifth Kate Shugak novel. He writes, in part:

We find theological challenges is the most unlikely places. I found this one in a murder mystery book by Dana Stabenow titled PLAY WITH FIRE…I’m afraid my perception is that Ms. Stabenow demonstrates a very negative concept of Christianity and organized religion in general…Ms. Stabenow demonstrates a comprehensive detailed cursory examination of the errors in her apparent experiences. Her view of Christianity and organized religion as expressed is, unfortunately, blatantly cursory…My purpose in writing this essay is to serve as a responsible defense of Christianity in the light of Ms. Stabenow’s deliberate dissertation against organized religion and Christianity…

Play With FireThis would not be the first time I have been taken to the woodshed for Pastor Seabolt’s character and his church in Play With Fire. Usually I’m condemned in far more incendiary terms. I’m told the book was brandished from the pulpit of the Anchorage Baptist Temple and proclaimed “the work of the devil” before the congregation. I have had many letters from the deep South, in particular North Carolina (Why North Carolina?), saying I’m going straight to hell.

Couple of things.
First of all, I am flattered beyond belief that my little novel is being taken so seriously.
Second, the events in the novel were based on three real life events in Alaska that occurred in the decade prior to the writing of it, two of them taken from stories I read in the newspaper and the third from a story told to me by an eyewitness. I keep telling you people, I don’t have to make this stuff up.

Killing GroundsThird, the great thing about series fiction is the way the continuing characters develop over the course of the novels, and Kate is no exception. Read Killing Grounds to see what I mean.

Religion. It’s like politics, it’s one of those things you never bring up in company for fear you’ll offend someone. But you don’t scare me. Did Play with Fire make you mad? Turn the taste of your communion wafer sour? Turn you completely off the Kate Shugak series? In which latter case, you probably won’t be reading this post. But if you are, time to weigh in below and tell me what you really think.