Synopses & Reviews
As Skookum Summer
begins, the year is 1981, and reporter Tom Dawson slinks back to his tiny Puget Sound hometown after making a disastrous mistake at the LA Times
. Working reluctantly at the local weekly, the Big Skookum Echo
, Tom is drawn into investigating a powerful logger's murder.
As the mystery deepens, the murder exposes the strains on the community as pollution, development, and global change threaten traditional Northwest livelihoods. It also forces Tom to confront his own past and discover what home really means to him. Hart weaves together a gripping and suspenseful plot with richly observed Pacific Northwest history and a vivid picture of a community on the brink of change.
"After a scandal led to his departure from a dream job as an investigative journalist at the Los Angeles Times, Tom Dawson has returned home to Big Skookum, a tiny logging town near Puget Sound in Washington State, in this heartfelt and rewarding debut set in 1981. Now on the staff of the Big Skookum Echo, Dawson is 'back in the boonies where women's softball rated as a page-one story.' He longs to return to 'real' journalism and gets the chance at a big story when local logger Hal Mayfield is murdered, and both the murderer and the motive remain unknown. Hart paints a vivid picture of the times: the impact of the contemporary recession on small towns like Big Skookum, the challenge to traditional local industries like logging from environmentalists, and the rise of illegal drug production in the boonies. These elements provide plenty of motives for Mayfield's murder, but they also stir up memories for author Hart, a former newspaperman from the Pacific Northwest. His sense of place and time is evocative and powerful (and may particularly appeal to readers familiar with Puget Sound or interested in the area), but often the book feels more like a heartfelt memoir, with all that genre's earnestness and surfeit of description, than a bildungsroman or a mystery." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A highly skilled writer with a love of the Northwest, Hart paints a strong and vivid portrait of an important era in Northwest history, when we went from logging and fishing to software and finance." William Dietrich, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at the Seattle Times and author of The Final Forest
"Hart's debut is both a compelling mystery and a serious work of literature about coming of age, the dying newspaper business, and changes sweeping the Pacific Northwest forests. The writing is lyrical and the landscape is so expertly drawn that readers will be transported there even if they never leave their houses." Bruce DeSilva, former Associate Press senior editor and author of Providence Rag.
"Skookum is a Pacific Northwest Indian word that translates to 'powerful,' 'splendid,' or 'memorable.' Jack Hart's prose is skookum. So is this novel." Richard Hoyt, author of Darwin's Secret
"Skookum Summer has the pleasing rhythm of an old fashioned movie and serves as an engaging ode to the dark and charming twilight of Northwest logging towns. In Jack Hart's capable hands, his novel somehow juggles murder and romance, meth labs and fly fishing, journalistic ethics and small-town ethos, all with aplomb." Jim Lynch, author of Truth Like the Sun
"Jack Hart knows the Pacific Northwest waters and woods and characters as if he grew up on Puget Sound and still lives there, which he did and does. Skookum Summer features a hotshot young newshound stalking the bad guys — log rustlers and meth cookers — but it's even more a book about place. Hart nails it." Robin Cody, author of Ricochet River
About the Author
Jack Hart is a former managing editor and writing coach at the Oregonian and the author of Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction.