Reading the North

by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily NewsMay 11, 2013 

Portrait Alaska

By Clark James Mishler, with an essay by Stephen Haycox (Yes Alaska Press, $29.95)

The blurb: Mishler has been making portraits in Alaska for 25 years and has made one a day for the past two years. This book collects the images of faces from across the state.

Excerpt: "There is a joke around our house that I often share with visitors and it goes like this: 'I may not know everyone in Alaska but, chances are, I have photographed them.' That claim may not be as far off as one might think. Alaska is an enormous state with a tiny population. As a commercial photographer specializing in location portraiture, I have traveled to every corner of our state on assignment for corporations, publishers, government bodies, and private clients. During my travels I often photograph everyone I encounter. Over the past twenty-five years, I have practiced my trade on tens of thousands of Alaskans."

King of the Mountains

By Dan Possumato (Smoky City Press)

The blurb: A former deputy garrison commander headquartered at Fort Richardson, the former Eagle River resident's book chronicles the life of Giuseppe Musolino, a young Italian who, after being falsely convicted of a crime in 1897, escaped a labor camp to hunt those responsible for his conviction.

Excerpt: "Musolino walked for 20 straight hours until he succeeded in making his way to the mountains and forests of Aspromonte, not far from Santo Stefano. Aspromonte means 'rough mountains,' and indeed they are: steep, rocky and foreboding. When Musolino was born, Italy had been a unified country for only 15 years. Calabria had previously been governed as part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, ruled by the Spanish branch of the house of Bourbon. Before that it had been controlled by a host of powers, including the French under Napoleon. No matter who conquered the land, the common people remained impoverished and oppressed. The Calabrians became progressively more discontented and managed to mount several revolts, all brutally crushed by the government. Anyone who challenged a regime that supported the nobility and landed classes to the detriment of the general populace, be they bandit or not, was looked upon as a champion of the people. Beppe Musolino soon became that champion."

West of Spencer

By R A Bard (Smooth Passage Books, $16.99)

The blurb: The novel depicts the hard-working, hard-playing lives of fishermen in the Gulf of Alaska, with fisherman Bo drinking heavily through the winter to cure a broken heart until fishing season offers some distraction.

Excerpt: "The first alarm is a rather harmonious bell and it is the second's irritating buzz that works. What is that Jesus it's still dark I could lie here a little longer but no it's an hour before I can get out to the drag and put the gear in and any bite will be starting noon. I can do this one more day it's only nineteen hours until it's dark again and then I can rest unless I catch another mass of fish like I did yesterday and that would be all right too.

"Fighting an urge to fire up immediately Bo drops into the engine room to check oil and water. Then with the Cummins at fast idle steps blearily onto the foredeck to watch in the dim light the anchor chain spooling onto the winch's drum. Clanking of links coming over the roller waking him up a bit. Occasionally stomping on the chain between roller and winch to shake the muddy sand off. Stopping the winch after the last ten feet of extra heavy chain has rattled up and the anchor is snugged tight against the roller and the dog set. "

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story listed the wrong publisher for "West of Spencer."


Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News

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