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Cozy up this fall with new reads by local authors

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Washington state is known for its wines, agricultural bounty, aerospace and tech industries and of course its picturesque scenery.

It’s also a mecca for authors.

Prolific writer Ivan Doig, for example, resides in Seattle. His latest book, The Bartender’s Tale, is getting quite the buzz.

It’s a historical western that begins in the summer of 1960 and features a character named Tom Harry, owner of a saloon called Medicine Lodge in Gros Ventre, Montana.

The story is narrated by Tom’s 12-year-old son, Rusty, who entertains himself in the back room of the saloon, where the air vent provides him with insider knowledge of the undertakings of the adults in the town.

Father and son have a close, loving relationship until outsiders stir things up.

First to show up is Proxy, a dancer Tom knew in the past, along with her hippie daughter, Francine, who she claims is Tom’s child.

Then, the local restaurant has new owners and their daughter Zoe quickly becomes Rusty’s best friend.

Next to arrive on the scene is Delano Robertson, an oral historian who wants Tom to help him gather reminiscences at the forthcoming reunion of workers from a New Deal dam project — a period of Tom’s past he does not seem anxious to recollect.

According to Woodinville Library adult services librarian Linda Safarli, The Bartender’s Tale is an “enjoyable, old-fashioned, warmhearted story about fathers and sons, growing up and big life changes.” She says it is being hailed by critics as Doig’s best work yet.

Safarli also recommends award-winning author Sherman Alexie’s most recent book, Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories.

Alexie, also based in Seattle, is famous for his straightforward portrayals of life on an Indian reservation in the Pacific Northwest.

In his latest compilation, the author has merged 15 new short stories with 15 of his classic pieces.

Safarli notes that Alexie balances the stories with humor and humanity while touching on difficult issues such as racism, addiction and infidelity.

She adds, “This highly anticipated collection is a must-read for established Alexie fans and will certainly create a new wave of Alexie fans, further confirming his mastery of modern literature.”

Another hot-off-the press novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, by Jonathan Evison is also on Safarli’s list of new, choice reads. This is the third book for Evison, a Bainbridge Island resident, whose prior novels, All About Lulu and West of Here, both won awards.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving tells the story of Ben Benjamin, a man who lost everything — his wife, his family, his home and his livelihood.

In an act of desperation and with nothing else to lose, Ben registers for a night class called “The Fundamentals of Caregiving.”

Afterwards, he finds a position caring for Trev, a teenage boy with muscular dystrophy.

Trev is stubborn, frustrated and resentful of the world at large.

A close camaraderie develops between Tom and Trev and the implausible pair embarks on a cross-country road trip to take in as many bizarre highway attractions as possible en-route to visit Trev’s ailing and estranged father.

Their impulsive journey is interrupted by one birth, two arrests, a dust storm and a mysterious pursuit by a brown Buick Skylark.

Safarli notes the story’s profusion of humor and calls it a “big-hearted and inspired novel.”

For the teen set, librarian Pam Hunter at Woodinville Library is excited about several new books by Northwest authors.

The Edge of Nowhere, by Whidbey Island resident Elizabeth George, is a coming-of-age story that contains touches of the paranormal.

Becca, the 14-year-old main character, has the ability to hear snippets of the thoughts of others.

When she discovers she has been stranded on Whidbey Island, she turns to new friends, all of whom seem to be hiding their own secrets.

Known for her best-selling crime novels for adults, this is George’s first foray aimed at teen readers.

Mandy Hubbard, an established teen fiction author in Tacoma, sets her latest book in Enumclaw.

According to Hunter, it’s a Jekyll and Hyde plot with a twist. The story centers on Harper, a teenage girl who begins a relationship with a new guy at her high school named Logan.

Though she has always been skeptical about love, Harper is elated to be involved with someone so handsome and charming.

Then she meets Logan’s twin brother Caleb and begins to suspect he may be involved in some of the more disturbing things that have begun to happen in her small town.

Suspense, lies and romance are entwined in this modern-day retelling of a famous Gothic tale.

Also for teens is Terry Trueman’s latest book, Life Happens Next, a companion to the Spokane-based author’s prior works, Stuck in Neutral and Cruise Control.

The reader once again enters the world of Shawn McDaniel, a young man who suffers from severe cerebral palsy.

Unable to speak and with a body that he cannot control, Shawn’s life takes on a new dimension when he falls in love for the first time and subsequently develops a new understanding for what the relationships in his life can offer him.

Youngsters will enjoy a new memoir by Peg Kehret, a well-known local author who lives on an animal sanctuary near Mt. Rainier. Animals Welcome: A Life of Reading, Writing and Rescue, describes Kehret’s life, the incredible animals she has known and the love she had for her late husband.

Hunter also recommends 3Below, by Patrick Carman.

This delightful story for children brings back 11-year-old Leo, who readers first met in Carman’s Floors.

Leo, the new owner of New York City’s Whippet Hotel, a most eccentric establishment, has a predicament on his hands.

He must solve the mystery of the former owner’s directions or he won’t be able to pay the back taxes, which means his beloved hotel might slip through his fingers.

Adventures ensue in this fun and wacky tale.

Look for more new reads by local authors in the months to come, especially as it gets closer to the holidays.

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