Influenced by power of place, they write
- By Susan Drinkard
Landscape, weather and wildlife inspired many of Idaho’s famous authors. This is apparent in books by early-day Idahoans Vardis Fisher, Carol Ryrie Brink and Ernest Hemingway, and in the works of highly esteemed contemporary writers such as Kim Barnes, Marilynne Robinson, Patrick McManus and Mary Clearman Blew. The power of this place continues to influence the points of view, plots, characters and settings in books by local writers published in the past two years.
Works of nonfiction: Books on real life
In the realm of nonfiction, five local authors have written books that have nothing much to do with Sandpoint, but in the case of the mother-daughter team of Doris and Natalie Fuller, their book has everything to do with huge commercial success.
The year after the book was published, in May 2004, was one of speaking engagements on major television networks and NPR, as well as interviews with newspaper reporters throughout the country. Their book, Promise You Won’t Freak Out, (Berkley Trade, 2004) was written during Natalie’s junior year at Sandpoint High School (she’s in college now). This revelatory parenting guide, read by teens as well as parents, has been optioned by CBS and may eventually be scripted for a pilot show. It was named “Best Parenting Book” of 2004 by amazon.com and is being printed in Lithuanian for teens there to understand American teens, says Doris, who goes by her married name, Doris Sanger, in Sandpoint. Autographed copies of Promise You Won’t Freak Out are available locally at The Corner Book Store and Vanderford’s for $13.
Jonathan Johnson’s memoir Hannah and the Mountain: Notes Toward a Wilderness Fatherhood (University of Nebraska Press, 2005), is the story of a man preparing for fatherhood. It’s about a young couple’s challenges in the wilds of northern Idaho, where they have come to build a log cabin on family land near Westmond. The book is about weathering loss as well as real weather. See story and excerpt from Hannah and the Mountain on page 63. Hannah and the Mountain can be purchased locally at Vanderford’s, The Corner Book Store or online in the General Store on SandpointOnline.com for $22.
Sandpoint resident Carlos Rius wrote his book, The Ambulant Peddler, under the pen name del Campo, with illustrations by his son, Anton (Indigo Ventures, 2005, self-published). The author relates experiences from 20 years of international sales in a series of short stories – some quite humorous – all based on true events. Each of the 14 stories is paired with a lesson targeted to businesspeople, especially fellow international salesmen, who he refers to as “ambulant peddlers.” Rius now runs a consulting business for American companies searching for partnerships and opportunities outside of the United States. The Ambulant Peddler sells at Vanderford’s, The Corner Book Store or online in the General Store on SandpointOnline.com for $12.95.
Local orchestra and chorale director Mark C. Reiner has written a nonfiction (self-published) book entitled The Balance of the Future, an exploration of how decisions are based on unexamined perceptions, how these assumptions have driven our history and
how they may impact the future. Sandpoint High School art teacher Dan Shook created the book’s cover. The Balance of the Future is available at Inquire Within, located downstairs in the Gardenia Center for $19.95.
Jim Payne of Sandpoint has written A History of Force and Am I Having Fun Yet? (both LyttonPublishing, 2004, self-published). The first is a scholarly look at what he deems is a worldwide trend away from violence and mayhem. The second is a journal of his kayak adventure from New York City to Quebec, taken in May-June 2004. A History of Force ($23.95) and Am I Having Fun Yet? ($9.95) are available for purchase at Vanderford’s. Payne, a political scientist and local piano tuner, has a website for perusal of all his books, lyttonpublishing.com.
Works of fiction: Using the imagination
Sandy Compton’s newest novel is a wilderness tale set between Montana and Idaho. Archer MacClehan & The Hungry Now (Blue Mobius Books, 2005, self-published) is a book about five people who venture out for a three-day hike; their relationships and staying power are tested during this wilderness experience, brought to bear by The Hungry Now, a 25-year-old grizzly bear. This wholesome adventure is the first in a series. Archer MacClehan & The Hungry Now may be purchased for $14 at Vanderford’s, The Corner Book Store or online in the General Store on SandpointOnline.com.
Long-time Elmira resident Mary Jane Cobb Young, also known as Shakura, says breathing the Sandpoint-area air, where talent and artistry abound, feeds her creative juices. She has written a fictional biography based on the life of her paternal grandmother, Phenie Caroline Holmes Cobb in Phenie’s World, (Infinity Publishing, 2005, self-published) an entertaining chronicle of train robberies, murder and tales of a covered wagon trip from Arkansas to what was Indian Territory in 1903.
“The story had to be told. She had 18 grandchildren, and there are only five of us left,” says the author, who fictionalized portions of the book. Young worked as a first grade teacher at Naples School between Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry for 18 years. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys the simple life of northern Idaho – working in her organic gardens and, in the winter, sitting in front of the fire with her four cats. Phenie’s World is available at Vanderford’s in Sandpoint for $16.95, and may be obtained through Bonners Books in Bonners Ferry. It may be purchased online at buybooksontheweb.com.
The Sandpoint-area setting is important in Robert Henry Wright Jr.’s books, which he describes as romances. Apology to Grouse Creek (Xlibris Corporation, 2004, self-published) is a relationship book about obsession, survival and revenge. Even though he’s changed many of the names – Schweitzer is Ghosthogs and the old Garden Restaurant is The Meadow – you’ll recognize where you are if you know the city and its environs.
The second book in the trilogy, Ten Percent Marriage (Xlibris Corporation, 2005, self-published) was published last fall. The protagonist in Ten Percent Marriage is Emily, who lives in a cabin on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille where she’s gone to escape her past. Harvey, who considers himself a loser, goes to see the land he won in a bouré game years before, which is near Emily’s, and the plot unfolds.
Wright retired from the petroleum industry in Texas with his wife to the north fork of Grouse Creek in 1988 and lived for 13 years without electricity, water or telephone. They have since moved near town where Wright is working on the third book in this trilogy. Each of the books has the same protagonist, but they are not dependent upon each other. Apology to Grouse Creek is available at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane and at the Elmira Store for $24.99 or online at xlibris.com/bookstore; Ten Percent Marriage may also be purchased at that website for $19.54.
Zane Grey was not the only dentist author of Westerns. Sandpoint dentist Paul Cox has written a based-on-history Western “not for the faint of heart” set in central Texas. The 240-page paperback entitled The Last Scalp, (Llumina Press, 2004, self-published) recounts through his characters how inept Reconstruction politics impacted life on the frontier. Cox’s next book is a novel set in the future in Clark Fork, Idaho. The Last Scalp is available at Vanderford’s, The Corner Book Store and online at llumina.com/store.
It could be argued that the books by local authors are about weather and landscape, just on different planes. One thing is certain: The power of this place will continue to influence the points of view, plots, characters and settings in books by local writers for years to come.
Of these newly published books, the following are in the Sandpoint Library: Hannah and the Mountain, Archer MacClehan & The Hungry Now, Phenie’s World, The Balance of the Future and A History of Force.