PUBLISHED: 12:27 PM on Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Author puts Alaska on map with crime stories

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The wilderness of Alaska combined with a complex character is what makes John Straley's novels.

The mystery novel writer will read from his latest work and answer questions at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22 at Downtown Junea Library.

Straley wanted nothing to do with Alaska when he moved with his wife to Sitka in 1977 for her to pursue a job a marine biologist.

"I hated southeastern Alaska. We had lived in eastern Washington in the dry country and I worked as a horse shoer. There were no horses anywhere to be found around here," Straley said.

After taking a job on a trail crew, Straley said he quickly grew fond of the "wild country" and has no plans to leave anytime soon.

"Sitka is home. I love to see new places, but I love to come home," Straley said. "I can't imagine living on the road system anymore."

Straley said he had a love for writing since he wrote and read aloud poetry in the eighth grade to help with his dyslexia.

"Growing up I moved around a lot, and I kept diaries and wrote letters. I wrote three manuscripts before my first novel was published in 1993.

Straley said that novel, "The Woman Who Married a Bear," was written for himself and was picked up by a New York City publishing house by chance.

"It was like a dream. It raises the stakes for your next book," Staley said. "It was hard to get used to the idea of meeting strangers who know who I am and have read my work."

Becoming interested in the mystery genre happened for Straley while working as a private investigator around Alaska, where he met various kinds of people who he found interesting.

He said Alaska is a great place to set his stories.

"It's great particularly for crime stories. The wild country surrounding urban centers creates an opportunity for wild creatures to interject themselves into urban American life," Straley said. "You have communities that function from day to day and something will happen to remind you that wilderness is all around you."

He said one reason his stories are well received is because of the Alaskan setting.

"People in the lower 48 are fascinated with Alaska. It is a favorite location for many people whether they've been here or not. It could be just something they've seen on TV or someone they know has visited, but it's a fascinating place in their imagination," Straley said.