Category Archives: review

How Wild Is Wild?

On a junket to the Priest Lake Museum to view a moonshining exhibit in the summer of 2014, I encountered my friend, Kris Runberg Smith, and asked how the book I knew she was working on about Priest Lake was going. She looked at me imploringly. “I just want it to be done,” she said. Continue reading

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Cornerstones

If you happen to be an Idaho sports history junkie with a penchant for stories of big-name athletes who have competed in the Gem State, or if you’re just in the mood for some charmingly obscure sports anecdotes, Myron Finkbeiner’s The Cornerstones of Idaho Sports (Resilient Publishing, 2014) should make your must-read list.

Finkbeiner, a longtime coach and founder of the Boise-based World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, did his research. I found myself chuckling quietly while reading Chapter 26, “Outlaw Basketball, City Basketball in the 1940s.” As the author notes, it isn’t about prison basketball leagues, but about an oddity of small Idaho towns that happened well before my time. I began a local sports-writing career in Nampa in 1979, but I’d never heard of outlaw basketball. I won’t spoil that story for you, though. Continue reading

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The Rhythms of Ranch Life

My childhood summers in Idaho were endless days of outdoor exploration— the wind in my face riffling off Lake Coeur d’Alene, well-worn trail under bare feet, and sun-filled woods, where I roamed freely with my siblings and friends.

Our daily timetable was dictated by the natural world—up with the sun and home by dark to meet around the dinner table. These memories returned to me as I read Frankie Ravan, by Idaho author Floyd Loomis.

The year is 1958. In a small mountain town called Crawford’s Nook, eight-year-old Frankie Ravan is coming of age within the safe confines of post-World War II America. Loomis chronicles the typical boyhood adventures of rural life in the mid-century—sampling cigarettes and beer, pondering the first hints of sexuality, and mourning the accidental death of another local boy. Daily life at the Ravan ranch, where Frankie lives with his parents and two older siblings, is full of the regular and comforting rhythms of harvesting, hunting, baking, and preserving. With his best friends Charlie and Tom, Frankie suffers the cruelties of older, rougher boys and the inevitable tragedies that befall any community, but are felt more deeply in a small town—arson, child abuse, and the deaths of loved ones. But mostly this a story about the innocent splendor of early childhood—horses, motorbikes, swimming holes, and the freedom to roam at will in a little town that holds them all close. Continue reading

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Harold’s Voyage

As a member of the “Greatest Generation,” ninety-year-old Harold Kiel would be a hero in my book even without the story of his life journey, which inspires me not only for its insights into World War II, but for the kind, intelligent man behind them. Harold and his biographer/neighbor, Michael Kincaid, live not far from me in northern Idaho.

I write a column for a veterans’ organization, so when Mike, whom I had met through the Idaho Writer’s League, sent me a notice of the release of his book, Harold’s Voyage, I jumped at the chance to interview a US Navy veteran from the war. There aren’t many left.
I met with Harold, Mike, and a videographer named Kevin Hochstetler at a small coffee house in Hayden. Harold’s wisdom and sense of humor impressed me to the extent that I forgot to write things down, and what I did write later proved to be a jumble of unintelligible hen scratching. Fortunately, Mike gave me a copy of the book, or I’d have been up a creek without a paddle.

During his active duty in the war, Harold kept five journals that were his sanity and solace while on board the Patrol Craft Rescue Ship “PCR 851.” He was unaware at the time that journals were a court martial offense during the war. Those journals became the basis of Harold’s Voyage. Continue reading

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Minidoka Memories

Teresa Tamura grew up in Nampa, but before she began work on MINIDOKA: An American Concentration Camp (Caxton Press, 2013), she hadn’t seen the site, just hours from her home.

“In Memory of Minidoka,” an article in the Seattle Times, sparked a journey of discovery for her regarding the impact of Executive Order 9066 issued on February 19, 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The order authorized the removal of 120,000 West Coast Japanese-Americans, justified as a “military necessity.” A random, unexplainable “jagged line” drawn through Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and engulfing Alaska took some and left others, the largest forced relocation in United States history.

Teresa learned that more than nine thousand people of Japanese ancestry had lived at the Minidoka camp between 1942 and 1945. Although a third generation Japanese-American, her parents and grandparents were not relocated, and had never mentioned Minidoka. Wondering what was left of the site, what documentation remained, and what had become of those once incarcerated, she sought answers. The result is her book, which illustrates what transpired during those years, what became of the people interred there, and the ripple effects upon their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
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The Falcon and the Bookman

Bookstore owner Will Peterson’s first novel, nine years in the making, has a provocative title: Crawl On Your Belly Like a Man.

This intentional mixing of snake and human imagery in the title—of self-effacement and Western machismo—sets the stage for an intriguing narrative from “Feral” Errol Husky, who returns to southeastern Idaho in mid-life accompanied by Kyrie, a falcon that is more companion than pet. Continue reading

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