Spotlight on Alaska Books: Dead Reckoning, by Dave Atcheson

Something about the way he sized me up from
the deck of his boat, his stance, his stabbing glare—a look that told me he and
he alone was the boss, off shore and on—made me hesitate, even when he finally
asked us in a gravelly voice to come aboard. But as we began to take that step
over the rail and onto the boat he stopped short, turning abruptly to look me
in the eye and catching just a glint of my momentary panic.
“So, you want to be a fisherman,”
he said, more of a wager than a question.
Then, without waiting for a
response he quickly turned, leading us into his kingdom, the beginning of my
long and desultory alternative education. My introduction to the sea.
Having never even seen the ocean, an
adventurous youth takes his first job at sea aboard The Lancer, with Darwin Wood, a vestige of the past, a man so
confounding, so complex and so frightening, that it’s hard to believe the young
man walks away from the experience unscathed. Forced to buddy up with an
accused murderer in order to cope, he begins to question his deeply ingrained
ideas of success and status, the resulting conflict finally resolving itself 15
years later, in the least likely of places: on the Bering Sea, aboard a boat in
peril, during a night of terror that would reshape the lives of everyone
This is a story that in some
respects shares many of the themes expressed in works of nonfiction such as The Perfect Storm or Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild. Yet it is vastly
different from these in that it delves into a side of Alaska rarely seen,
taking not only an intimate look at life at sea, but an insider’s view into one
of this state’s small communities, and the myriad of upstarts, dropouts, and
rogues that color its landscape.
book is so much more than an adventure story. Dave Atcheson is not just a
gifted storyteller but a writer of great intelligence, insight, and compassion.
Dead Reckoning probes with humor and
humility important questions about the choices we all make in life and the
values we find in the natural world and our relationships with others.”
Lord, former Alaska Writer Laureate, author of Fishcamp and Beluga Days
Dave Atcheson
is the author of National Geographic’s Hidden Alaska: Bristol Bay and Beyond
and the guidebook, Fishing Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. He has written for a
variety of periodicals, from Outdoor Life to Boys’ Life, and is a frequent
contributor to Alaska Magazine and past contributing editor for Fish Alaska
Magazine. He lives in Sterling, Alaska and is a member of 49 Writers. Dead
Reckoning, Navigating a Life on the Last Frontier, Courting Tragedy on its High Seas, is
published by Skyhorse Publishing, and is available in hardcover, Kindle, Nook,
and as an audiobook. He’ll be speaking at the UAA Bookstore in Anchorage on Wednesday, Oct. 22, from 5 to 7 pm.
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