Reading the north

Fatal Incident

By Jim Proebstle (Emerald Book Co., $23.95)

The blurb: A novel about Nick Morgan, who becomes a pilot for the Army's Air Transport Command in Alaska in 1943 and becomes entangled in a Russian plot to steel top secret documents about an atomic bomb.

Excerpt: "'Captain, can I talk to you in private for a few minutes?' Cricket said to Nick as he approached the counter in flight operations. He motioned like a hotel doorman to an open door where there was a private meeting space, suggesting it as a place to talk.

" 'What's up?' Nick replied matter-of-factly.

"Once inside the room, Cricket closed the door, shutting out the ever-present clatter of the Teletype machines, and sat down on one of the chairs at the small table. The room was void of any decoration except for the required picture of President Roosevelt in a cheap wooden frame and a bright blue ashtray on the table. 'I've had a unique request, not one I've actually had before,' he said as he lit a Camel."

Boom, Bust, Boom

By Bill Carter (Scribner, $26)

The blurb: An exploration of the history, culture and economics of copper, its necessity to civilization and the effects copper extraction has on people and the environment.

Excerpt: "I am on the way to the airport. I am flying to Alaska, where I have worked as a commercial fisherman every summer for the past several years. But I am not going there to fish this time. I am going because there is talk of developing one of the world's biggest copper and gold mines near the watershed of Bristol Bay, which is home to the world's largest sockeye salmon, run, with almost forty million fish returning every summer. I am familiar with many people fighting against the potential mining operation and am on my way to hear firsthand what would happen if the mine opens.

"Driving toward the airport, I glance down at the coins on my passenger seat. I remember hearing somewhere that pennies contain almost no copper. In fact, they are 97 percent zinc and only copper coated, whereas quarters are almost all copper."

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News