You Alaskans will be happy to know that the weather has cooled a bit in San Diego, down to a respectable 65 degrees or so. Yesterday I went sailing in blustery conditions that reminded me of Alaska’s seas, a way toned-down version of the stuff you see on The Deadliest Catch. My adrenaline surged with the swells, and my very competent son at the tiller said he wasn’t sure anyone had ever made such good use of the grip rail as I.

I’d just finished reading John Straley’s Death and the Language of Happiness, with scenes set in Unalaska that should be required reading of Deadliest Catch fans. Straley tweaks the PI genre with his self-proclaimed passive-aggressive cynical hero, Cecil Younger, who manages to both fit and defy the stereotypical screw-up detective. Minor characters are lovingly quirky and charmingly realistic, from a hook-handed child to Younger’s “special needs” roommate to the free-wheeling Unalaska chief of police.

In an earlier post, I commented on the comparatively small amount of Alaskan literary fiction. But Straley’s deft prose is a delectable blend of the commercial and the literary. I’ll have more to say later about how he accomplishes that.

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