18 Seattle books

John Saul

John Saul

1. Terry Brooks, The Sword of Shannara (1977): In the first installment of Seattle-based Brooks’ Shannara series, eight idiosyncratic adventurers search for the sword that can end the evil that reigns in their mythical world. The Sword of Shannara was also the first fantasy trade paperback to seize a slot on The New York Times best-seller list.

2. John Saul, Suffer the Children (1977): History’s repeating itself in Port Arbello, where children are disappearing one by one. History also repeated itself after the Seattle author’s first thriller: Suffer was the first dark pearl on a long strand of best-sellers.

3. Ann Rule, The Stranger Beside Me (1980): In 1975, the former Seattle policewoman signed a contract to write a book about an unidentified serial killer who had brutally murdered a score of Puget Sound women. Rule soon received a call from her friend Ted Bundy, whom she worked with at the Seattle Crisis Clinic. She told him about her project, and he said he hoped she would make a million dollars.

4. Colleen J. McElroy, Queen of the Ebony Isles (1983): A lyrical brocade of language and sound, the UW English professor’s poetry reached an even greater level of intensity in this collection, which received the American Book Award.

5. Carolyn Kizer, Yin (1984): The astounding, Pulitzer Prize-winning collection by the legendary Northwest poet and early Blue Moon Tavern regular.

6. J.A. Jance, Until Proven Guilty (1985): The Seattle mystery author’s first attempt at fiction was a 1,200-page work of creative nonfiction based on a series of Tucson murders. The book went nowhere, and Jance’s agent suggested she try writing a novel. The result was Until Proven Guilty, the first of Jance’s 14 hugely successful Detective Beaumont books.

7. Jayne Ann Krentz, Sweet Starfire (1986): The first sci-fi novel from this woman of multiple names (three) and novels (over 100). For sci-fi, she usually writes as Jane Castle. For historical romances, she goes by Amanda Quick. For contemporary novels, she keeps Krentz.

8. Denise Levertov, Breathing the Water (1987): One of the first collections the English-born Black Mountain poet published while living in Seattle during the last decade of her life.

9. Richard Hugo, White Center (1980): Hugo grew up in White Center. He adored baseball and fishing. He wrote reality-based, tough yet tender poetry, including this, his last collection. After his death, he inspired a fittingly named writers’ resource center on Capitol Hill.

10. Kathleen AlcalᬠMrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist (1992): Set in Mexico and the Southwest, the Seattle author’s imaginative short story collection crosses the border between the Southwest and Mexico—and realism and magical realism—to tell the tales of various women.

11. Rebecca Brown, Gifts of the Body (1994): The Seattle novelist’s gritty, painstakingly worded story about a home-care volunteer who assists people living with AIDS.

12. Sherman Alexie, Indian Killer (1996): The Coeur 13. Jon

12. Sherman Alexis, Indian Killer (1996): The Coeur d’Alene native’s second novel, in which a serial killer—an Indian raised by Caucasian parents, enraged over the loss of his ethnic identity—terrorizes trendy Seattle, hunting and scalping the city’s white men.

13. Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild (1996): Before following a group of Everest climbers Into Thin Air, the Seattle author documented the enigmatic journey of Chris McCandless, a young man who moved to the Alaskan woods, Thoreau-style, only to find death by starvation.

14. Jonathan Raban, Bad Land: An American Romance (1997): In an attempt to excavate the old American West, Raban journeys from Puget Sound to the dusty plains of eastern Montana and the Dakotas, where he resuscitates history through descriptions of rugged landscapes and interviews with pioneers’ descendants.

15. Michael Byers, The Coast of Good Intentions (1998): Penned by a Seattle native, this stunning short story collection details the lonely lives lead by various Northwesterners.

16. Bharti Kirchner, Shiva Dancing (1998): This Seattleite took a break from the cookbooks (The Healthy Cuisine of India, Vegetarian Burgers, among others) to try writing fiction. She’s off to a strong start with her debut, Shiva Dancing, and a second novel, Sharmila’s Book. Examining the connections—and tensions—between East and West, Kirchner’s fiction asks what it means to be an Indian living in America.

17. Matthew Stadler, Allan Stein (1999): An intricate, intelligent novel that involves a Seattle teacher who’s fired from his position for having sex with a 15-year-old student. When he travels to Paris to solve a mystery involving Gertrude Stein’s young nephew, he falls for yet another teenage boy.

18. David Shields, Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season (1999): What began as a Seattle Weekly sports article became a brave, provocative examination of race in professional sports and what professional sports mean in contemporary American culture.

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