Cold Storage, Alaska – John Straley

March 15, 2017

John Straley brings a novel filled with mystery and drama in Cold Storage, Alaska, published by Soho Press, copyright 2014.


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Straley starts this wonderful novel out with the remembrances of an elderly woman, Annabelle, about her oldest son Clive McCahon, who on the same day in April, 2000 has just been released after serving seven years on drug related charges in a federal prison and is looking for a way to get home to Cold Storage, Alaska.  On his way he stops in Los Angeles and picks up his cold weather parka which has thousands upon thousands of dollars sown into its lining.  The man he picks up the parka from also gives him a dog who is the meanest mutt anyone has ever seen.  Clive has always had this surreal talent where animals talk to him, though this mutt says nothing until the end of the book.


So Clive and this scary mutt, who he decides to call Little Brother, find their way with great difficulty to Clive’s brother Miles who was waiting for him at the short runway of the village airport to bring him home to the terrible news that their mother had passed away just two days before his arrival.  Miles and Clive have little to say to each other over this as they played such different roles in Annabelle’s life.  Miles takes Clive to the home they grew up in, saying nothing, and sits remembering his mother and all she provided for them after their father was lost at sea.

Running parallel to this development are the growing ambitions of Lester, an Inuit who has his eyes on Hollywood with a film that shows the life of his tribe and concludes with all humans becoming animals that love the Earth.  Lester hooks up with a Hollywood producer and together, after months of debate and argument, produce a film that they give a showing to the local people of Cold Storage, Alaska.  They laugh, they cry, and Lester is very happy with these results, for he knows the people of his hometown have seen countless films, many times over, and know a good one from a not so good one.  Lester the Eskimo is coming to Hollywood!

John Straley now introduces into this fascinating novel a young man, known as Billy, who has decided to kayak to Seattle to show his devotion to the Dali Lama who will be lecturing there in the interests of peace in the present world.  Billy loads his hand-built kayak with supplies for the months long journey as well as his passport and other necessities.  The weather does not agree with Billy’s quest and he is capsized by a huge wave.  To his great luck Bonnie, the bass player on the cruise ship band that just happened to be passing by, sees his desperate situation and has the ship’s crew deploy a life boat to save him from the cold waters.  Bonnie jumps in the frigid waters and drags Billy to the boat.  They are brought aboard and treated to a hero’s welcome.

Bonnie and Billy fall in love.  They make it back to Cold Storage where Bonnie’s band becomes, as there was no competition, the house band for Clive’s newly established night club that he named after an old friend who stood by him while he was in prison: Mouse’s Love nest.  Troubles arise when Clive’s former drug business partner comes looking for the money from the last large deal they had done.  He is a dangerous man, not as dangerous as Little Brother, but still a growing nuisance for Clive’s fresh start.

Much humor and action in this thriller set in the Alaskan wilderness.

Literally, Paul

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