Hard to believe it’s been more than a year since I’ve shared life events and new books with all of you. Needless to say, I have been busy juggling family and business!
First, and most important, I want to thank you again for all the prayers for grandson Toben. I am happy to report that his last chemo infusion was two weeks ago at UC Davis in Sacramento. The staff held a giant party for our now 7-year-old boy and let him ring a special bell three times to signal that his massive-dose chemo treatments for leukemia had come to an end. His parents and little brothers are planning a trip to Leggo Land to celebrate after Christmas. We are truly blessed.
Aunt Phil’s Trunk news is awesome, as well. I developed full curriculum for my Alaska history series a little more than a year ago (the crescendo of voices from parents and teachers finally became too loud to ignore) and it recently took the Silver Medal for Education from Literary Classics International. We now are in three Alaska school districts, as well as hundreds of home/charter schools. And the word from teachers, parents and students is that all are having a blast using the books for their Alaska history studies.
I have not written anymore books in the series, but I do have a few new offerings to tell you about in my Aunt Phil’s Trunk Proudly Presents series. You already know about The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses by Robert Service and The Call of the Wild and Other Northland Stories by Jack London (with biographies of the authors written by me in the back of the books) that debuted in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Rex Beach was in Nome in 1900 when the town exploded with more than 20,000 people looking for gold nuggets on the beaches. A crooked lawyer, shady judge and corrupt politicians colluded to steal the best mines, which threw the question of legal ownership into doubt. While the court was supposed to be sorting out the mess, the conspirators looted the gold to split among them.
The Spoilers hit the bestseller list when it debuted on bookstore shelves in 1906 and was made into a movie five times – even John Wayne starred in one of the versions in the 1940s.
The Aunt Phil’s Trunk Proudly Presents The Spoilers, released this summer, also has the real story of what happened in Nome during that time and a biography of Beach, both written by me, at the end of the book.
Then it occurred to me that Service, London and Beach – although making Alaska famous – did not spend much time in the Last Frontier. That thought led me to the question: Who was Alaska’s first authentic author?
My research uncovered Barrett Willoughby’s novel, Where The Sun Swings North. (Her first name was Florence, but Putnam & Sons told her to use a male name because no one would buy a book written by a woman in 1922.)
Her historical fiction tale features a family marooned on an island in Southeast Alaska for a year with only a month’s worth of food. It rings true because it happened to her in real life!
Her father sailed with the family from Washington state into the Gulf of Alaska in 1896. He then got them stuck on Middleton Island – a one-mile by four-mile island with no trees and no animals – for a year with only a month’s worth of food. That they survived is a miracle.
Rescued by a cannery ship in 1897, the father heard of the Klondike gold rush and packed his family off to search for golden riches. Then he later heard about the oil discovery in Katalla, near Cordova, and moved the family there for about 20-plus years.
Where The Sun Swings North was a huge hit across the United States. Hollywood soon came calling and turned it into a movie with John Barrymore and Marlena Dietrich starring. Barrett Willoughby went on to write more books about Alaska and was quite famous in the 1920s-1930s. I wrote a nice biography about her in the back of the Proudly Presents book.
I’m sure that you, or the history fan in your life, will enjoy one or more of these books written by famous authors from days gone by. They will make great Christmas presents and I will personally autograph each book for you.
Merry Christmas to each and every one of you wonderful Alaska history fans – Thanks for your patience with my lack of blogging during this past year, and I promise to do better in 2020.