I feel like it's a homecoming and a departure all at once."
-- Cecil gets all misty about drinking in The Woman Who Married a Bear
CECIL YOUNGER has at least two claims to fame-he works the mean... er, trails and paths, I guess, of the port city of Sitka, Alaska, and he's just gotta be the only hardboiled dick named Cecil. He's a sensitive, introspective, literate type driven by a compulsive curiousity on the one hand, and on the other, he's cynical, shiftless, and self-centered and investigator with a nasty drinking problem and a legacy left to him by his father that he'll never be able to live up to. And the fact is, even by his own admission Cecil isn't even that good a private investigator.
Nevertheless, Cecil plunges on, trying to get at his version of the truth, or at least the version his client wants: "...my father...the sainted Judge Young...was a man who could give you the whole truth, but as a private investigator the best I can do is try and create the most acceptable version...Cops are different, they're right there with sirens screaming and lights flashing, speaking to breathless witnesses who usually don't have time to think....It's weeks, maybe months, by the time I get to them. Impressions have changed to suit opinions, and everyone wants to become a judge. If cops collect the oral history of a crime, I gather folklore." (p. 9, Bear)
In fact, Cecil's quest usually involves plowing through stories of all kinds, cold hard facts, vague recollections, myths, legends, drunken fantasies, public records, old newspapers, gossip and rumours. Seems everyone he meets seems to have a story. But hell, what else can you do?
As Marilyn Stasio of The New York Times Book Review said, "Those cute folks on "Northern Exposure" wouldn't last the winter in (Cecil's Alaska where) barrooms are dangerous, race relations are touchy, and the landscape is too awesome for a man to look at without a drink." And the PWA liked it too. They awarded Cecil's debut with the 1993 Shamus for Best First Private Eye Novel.
Author Straley knows his stuff-not surprising considering he's worked as a criminal investigator for the the public defender's office of the state of Alaska. John Straley lives in Sitka, Alaska, with his son and wife, a marine biologist who studies whales.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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