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Reading the North

Expressions

V Ray (Publication Consultants, $59.95)

The blurb: This is a book of art by V Rae. V resides in Anchorage and paints from a studio frequented by many of her models. She is Artist in Residence at the Alaska Sealife Center and Alaska Zoo.

Excerpt: Rae'vn

I read somewhere that intelligence can be measured by the number of opposing attitudes one can engage on the same topic. This finely preened gentleman is president of his Mensa chapter.

Somewhere West of Roads

A.E. Poynor (OMM Writing, $14.95)

The blurb: On the same day John Barstow lost his girlfriend and his job, he got a letter from a lawyer in Anchorage summoning him to that frozen place. John doesn't really care that his uncle, Hank Grant, has died. He didn't really know the man. Hank had been the black sheep of the family, spending his life in remote reaches of Alaska, far from his Southern California family. In Anchorage, John learns that as his uncle's only heir, he must make a decision: sign on to an agreement to take over his uncle's business or walk away with a trailer house and $25,000. John is sure a trailer house in Nikiski is no temptation. The business? Well, it's also out of a city boy's comfort zone. Last Chance Adventures is a pay-to-mine tourist operation on the west side of Cook Inlet; fly-in only, as remote as it gets.

Excerpt: "What the hell are you doing here?" Reeder demanded as he fished his glasses from his shirt pocket.

"Do you suppose 1 could hitch a ride back on your two o'clock?"

Reeder chuckled. "The eats were that bad?" "Never got a chance to try anything." "What's up, then?"

"I can't say. I'd just feel better if I got back to Last Chance. Can you haul me over with the two o'clocks?"

"It's fine with me ... But the booked party has to agree to it, and you get dropped off last."

There was no objection from the scheduled group, and John was back at Last Chance three hours later. Maggie greeted the plane at the dock, and her surprise at seeing John was readily evident.

"I think that's pretty chicken," Maggie said after Reeder had taxied away from the dock.

"What?"

"You don't even trust us to get along for one day?"

"Well, I know it usually takes you two days to get really worked up," John said with a grin, "but 1 didn't want to risk it. Where's Harley? Oh, no! I'm too late, you killed him!"

"I'm serious, John. It's insulting."

"Okay, the truth is, I heard something from Trevor Williams that 1 wanted to let you and Harley know about."

Maggie looked at John skeptically. "And what could be so important that you came back a day early?"

"The Troopers are getting a case together to arrest someone for running Kells off the road." Maggie only nodded her head, so John continued, "But what I'm more interested in is your conversation with the Troopers."

"Why would that matter?"

"Maggie, the guy that ran Kells off the road is part of a gang out of Anchorage. He eliminated Kells because they apparently thought Kells was a threat. If they think you're a threat, you could be next!"

Maggie crossed her arms and gave John a little smile.

"You're worried. That's sweet."

"Damn straight I'm worried! Aren't you?"

"No, I'm not," Maggie said calmly. "Mark never discussed what 'business' deals he had going. In fact, he didn't discuss meth with me at all, unless I brought up his use. And you saw how those conversations went. I was no help to the Troopers at all. They asked questions I couldn't answer, and showed me pictures of people I didn't recognize. I was a complete disappointment to them."

A long sigh of relief escaped John, but he covered it with, "To think of all that barbecue I missed. I'm starving. Isn't it about time for dinner?"

"Sorry, I didn't plan on you," Maggie said. She playfully grabbed John's arm as they headed to lodge and asked, "How's a Spam sandwich sound?"

Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Anchorage Daily News