Stabenow, Dana 1952–
STABENOW, Dana 1952–
Born March 27, 1952, in Anchorage, AK; father, a pilot; mother, an aviation service bookkeeper and ground crew assistant. Education: University of Alaska, B.A., 1973, M.F.A., 1985.
Science fiction and mystery writer. Cook Inlet Aviation, Seldovia, AK, worked as assistant; Whitney-Fidalgo Seafoods, Anchorage, AK, worked as egg grader, bookkeeper, and expediter; also worked for Alyeska Pipeline, Galbraith Lake, AK, and for British Petroleum, Prudhoe Bay, AK.
Edgar Allan Poe Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1992, for A Cold Day for Murder.
"star svensdotter" series
Second Star, Berkley Publishing/Ace Books (New York, NY), 1991.
A Handful of Stars, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Red Planet Run, Berkley Publishing/Ace Books (New York, NY), 1995.
"kate shugak" series
A Cold Day for Murder, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1992.
Dead in the Water, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1993.
A Fatal Thaw, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1993.
A Cold-Blooded Business, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.
Play with Fire, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.
Blood Will Tell, Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.
Breakup, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.
Killing Grounds, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.
Hunter's Moon, Putnam (New York, NY), 1999.
Midnight Come Again, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2000.
The Singing of the Dead, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2001.
A Fine and Bitter Snow, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2002.
A Grave Denied, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.
A Taint in the Blood, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.
A Complement To Rage, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2007.
"liam campbell" series
Fire and Ice, Dutton (New York, NY), 1998.
So Sure of Death, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.
Nothing Gold Can Stay, Dutton (New York, NY), 2000.
Better to Rest, New American Library (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor and contributor) The Mysterious North: Tales of Suspense from Alaska, New American Library (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor and contributor) Alaska Women Write: Living, Loving and Laughing on the Last Frontier, Epicenter Press (Kenmore, WA), 2003.
(Editor and contributor) Wild Crimes, Signet (New York, NY), 2004.
(Editor and contributor) Powers of Detection: Stories of Mystery and Fantasy, Ace Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Blindfold Game, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor of short fiction to The Mysterious West, 1994, Our Alaska, 2001, and And the Dying Is Easy, 2001.
Dana Stabenow is the author of two fiction series that feature courageous, independent women: a mystery series that follows the exploits of Alaskan detective Kate Shugak and a science fiction series about space pioneer Star Svensdotter. Both series are generally characterized by the lavish use of detail and fast-spinning plots. Another mystery series featuring protagonists Liam Campbell, an Alaska state trooper, and his romantic partner, bush pilot Wyanet Chouinard, debuted in 1998.
Second Star was Stabenow's first novel, introducing readers to Svensdotter, who is in charge of building a space station in the face of such obstacles as terrorists, an attempted military takeover, and aliens. Writing for Booklist, Roland Green praised the author's "almost cinematic vividness" in describing the book's setting and recommended the book as "entirely respectable." Second Star 's sequel, A Handful of Stars, finds Star trying to colonize an asteroid belt. Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Vicky Burckholder found this book less satisfying than the first, reading "more like a diary than a novel." Red Planet Run, the next book in the series, is set in part on Mars, where Star is studying a new weapon. Reviewers Green and Burckholder expressed contradictory opinions on this story; the former wrote in Booklist that "the action is brisk" while Burckholder, in Voice of Youth Advocates, called the book "tame," with "very little action."
Stabenow's first Kate Shugak mystery was the Edgar Award-winning A Cold Day for Murder. Shugak, a thirty-something Aleut, has previously worked for the Anchorage district attorney and now lives in the Alaskan wilderness. When two people go missing in a fictional multi-million-acre national park, her investigative prowess, survival skills, and knowledge of the landscape are pressed into service. This story line allowed Stabenow to examine Aleutian culture and the pressure that Native Americans feel to assimilate into white society.
Stabenow was herself born in Alaska and raised on a fishing boat in the Gulf of Alaska, and critics found her familiarity with the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness evident in her descriptive passages. Subsequent books in the series use related settings and topics, including crab fishing, the oil fields, mushroom picking, and logging. Such elements often reflect the author's experiences living and working in Alaska. Other elements of the series also drew praise from Emily Melton in a Booklist review of the author's hard-cover debut, A Cold-Blooded Business. According to Melton, "Shugak is an uncommonly charismatic heroine … and Stabenow is a splendid writer who knows how to hook her readers with an exciting blend of thrills, danger, humor, pathos, fact, and fable."
In Killing Grounds, the author was given credit for seamlessly interweaving information about Native Alaskan lifestyles with a compelling murder mystery set in an impressively detailed Alaska fishing village. Here, an abusive salmon fisher is brutally murdered and Kate's own aunts are among the numerous suspects. Among the many enjoyable aspects of the book, according to Booklist reviewer John Rowen, are "the passages on women hunters and on fishing," which "compare favorably" to nonfiction efforts by the likes of Mary Stange and Holly Morris. As in her earlier mysteries, using "powerful prose, Stabenow evokes Alaska's rugged physical splendors and the toll taken on the humans who live there," a reviewer remarked in Publishers Weekly. Indeed, a Kirkus Reviews critic reported that, in Killing Grounds, "crime and punishment take a backseat" to "a leisurely guided tour of still another unexpected corner of the Yukon State."
Killing Grounds was followed by Hunter's Moon, in which Kate and her lover, Jack Morgan, agree to act as guides for a friend who has a group of German computer company executives coming out for a big-game hunt. Kate's experience in sleuthing comes in handy, however, when the Germans begin showing up dead. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly dubbed this installment "gripping and adrenaline-charged, punctuated with extreme violence … all delivered with Stabenow's razor-sharp suspense and gritty prose." The stunning climax of this novel, in which Kate's lover is killed and she herself barely escapes with her life, sets the stage for Stabenow's next Kate Shugak mystery, Midnight Come Again, in which a grieving Kate is living under an assumed name in a fishing village in western Alaska. There she is sought out by friend and state trooper, Jim Chopin, to help out on a case that already includes several FBI agents in what appears to be an international banking scandal. A Publishers Weekly critic called Midnight Come Again an unevenly paced book that begins slowly, with the grieving Kate, and ends "in a heart-stopping climax aboard a hijacked airplane."
The background for The Singing of the Dead is both political and historical. A hard-boiled election campaign results in murder that may be connected to a family scandal which originated during the Alaskan gold rush a century earlier. The story in the foreground is about Kate's murder investigation, surrounded by the relentless thrust and parry of regional politics, and Kate's evolving life as she recovers from the death of her lover in Hunter's Moon and collaborates once more with state police officer Jim Chopin. As the murder investigation deepens, Kate is drawn toward the backgrounds of the political candidates, where she encounters the colorful history of a gold rush entertainer known as the "Dawson Darling." Alternating smoothly between the contemporary political setting and the primitive wilderness of miners and their companions, Stabenow treats her readers to what a Publishers Weekly contributor called a "fine novel," featuring complex characters amidst the scenic splendor for which Stabenow's work is routinely praised, and a mystery of "even greater depth than usual." The reviewer particularly noted the vivid image that Stabenow presents of the hard lives that women like Angel Beecham, the Dawson Darling, had to face in a land where alternatives were few and far between.
With Fire and Ice, Stabenow introduced a new protagonist: Liam Campbell, a reformed drunkard and Alaskan state trooper reeling from aftershocks of a car accident that killed his son and left his wife in a coma. At the start of Fire and Ice, Campbell has been bumped from duty in Anchorage to the small town of Newenham, where things quickly heat up when a bush pilot is killed by his own propeller, someone shoots up a jukebox playing "Margaritaville," and Campbell's first true love, Wy Chouinard, turns up. Reviewers noted that, as in the Kate Shugak books, this series also promises a richly detailed backdrop of Alaskan landscapes and lifestyles. "Happily, this much mayhem has rarely been in surer literary hands," commented a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Booklist reviewer John Rowen enumerated the assets of this first installment: "The mystery is hard to solve, the plot fast moving and well organized, the Arctic landscape stunning, and the characters vivid and sympathetic."
Rowen praised the second Campbell novel, So Sure of Death, even more highly than the first, calling it "among the best of the year." In this mystery, Liam is ferried about by Wy Chouinard in her air taxi while he pursues two murderers, the first having killed an entire family and two deckhands aboard a fishing boat, and the second having stabbed an archaeologist's assistant on a nearby dig using a native knife. "Nonstop incident and matchless local color keep you from noticing that you don't get to spend enough time with them to make the real perps as vivid as the Alaska scenery," noted a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews. Rowen too found that the pleasures of So Sure of Death are not the ones usually found in a mystery. "Best of all," Rowen wrote in Booklist, "are the fully realized, multidimensional characters."
In the third installment of the series, Nothing Gold Can Stay, Stabenow's protagonist investigates two seemingly unrelated killings, one of the local postmistress and the other of a gold prospector. The solution of the mystery becomes crucial in ensuring the safety of Wy's adopted son. Although a critic in Publishers Weekly complained that in this mystery, "the sense of place overwhelms everything else," Rowen compared Stabenow's writings favorably to those of other women writing about the experience of women in the modern wilderness, women such as Margaret Coel and Sue Henry: "Stabenow has a gift for describing native cultures and the nature of contemporary life in the wilderness."
Better to Rest is Stabenow's fourth Liam Campbell mystery and concerns, in part, Campbell's discovery of a World War II army plane that had crashed into a glacier decades earlier. Campbell's father, an air force colonel, comes to town to investigate the wreck, while Campbell becomes involved in investigating the murder of septuagenarian Lydia Thompkins, a local woman with a sharp tongue, just one of the many colorful characters in the small fishing village of Newenham. When he is promoted to sergeant and offered the chance to return to Anchorage, Campbell hesitates, because of his romantic ties to Wy Chouinard. As much a part of the plot as murder and crashed airplanes is the history of the Alaskan Railroad and the Alcan Highway, two major engineering projects that had a profound impact on the region during World War II. Many critics have noted their fondness of Campbell as much as they liked Kate Shugak; a writer for Publishers Weekly called him a "passionate" and "engaging" hero, and a writer for Kirkus Reviews called the novel "a taut, pleasingly complicated idyll."
In 2002 Stabenow also published her twelfth Kate Shugak novel, A Fine and Bitter Snow, which finds Kate once again in the Alaskan wilderness, surrounded by wildlife and eccentric locals. After a division among some of the townsfolk surfaces when a local park ranger is fired for his environmentally conservative views about arctic oil drilling, Kate catches up with Ruthe and Dina, friends of her late grandmother, who are long-time activists firmly in the anti-drilling camp. While state trooper Jim Chopin tries to interest Kate in a relationship, she is still mourning the death of her boyfriend, Jack, and trying to look after Jack's teenaged son. The suspense gathers when Dina is killed and Ruthe is hospitalized, which forces Kate to spring into investigator mode. The book "moves at a steady pace to a classic ending," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly.
In A Grave Denied Kate Shugak retreats to an Alaskan park, accompanied by her deceased boyfriend's teenaged son, who does not want to return to the custody of his biological mother. Kate's period of mourning is interrupted, however, when a frozen body is discovered by students on a field trip to nearby Grant Glacier. The body is that of a local handyman who appears to have been murdered. Kate takes on the investigation at the behest of state trooper Jim Chopin and quickly discovers the victim's secret life, which makes her the next target of the killer. Again critics commented favorably on Stabenow's feeling for life in the wilds of Alaska. "She is a no-nonsense writer about a place without frills," wrote Nancy Chaplin in Kliatt.
The fourteenth Kate Shugak novel, A Taint in the Blood, finds the investigator in Anchorage, delving into a thirty-year-old case of arson that resulted in the death of a child and the conviction of the child's mother, Victoria Muravieff, for the crime. Victoria's remaining daughter, Charlotte, is convinced of her mother's innocence and persuades Kate to look into the matter, which puts Kate in jeopardy when she becomes too close to unraveling a web of political intrigue. Along the way, her relationship with state trooper Jim Chopin heats up, yet she continues to be "the painstaking, uncompromising character" she has always been, wrote Bette Ammon in Kliatt. Additionally, the plot is aided by "fast-paced action scenes, sympathetic child characters and Kate's appealing dog, Mutt," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly.
Blindfold Game is Stabenow's first stand-alone novel, a timely story about terrorists who plan to attack the United States with a dirty bomb. The novel opens in Thailand, when a bomb kills over a hundred people. No one takes responsibility, but CIA operative Arlene Harte witnesses the event and notices two Korean men acting suspicious. She follows them around the world and ultimately ends up on a Coast Guard ship in the Bering Sea, convinced that a new network of North Korean terrorists are preparing to attack the United States. Like many of Stabenow's other novels, critics commented on the characterization and authenticity of detail; the author spent two weeks on board a Coast Guard vessel as part of research for the book. A writer for Kirkus Reviews praised the book's "exciting premise." Writing in Library Journal, critic Beth Lindsay predicted that Stabenow would "find new readers with this foray into the thriller genre," while still appealing to her Kate Shugak and Liam Campbell fans.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Alaska, September, 1996, Jan O'Meara, review of Blood Will Tell, p. 70; October, 1998, Jill Shepard, "Growing up Alaskan," p. 18.
Analog, December, 1991, review of Second Star, p. 159.
Armchair Detective, summer, 1997, review of Blood Will Tell, p. 343, and review of Breakup, p. 345.
Booklist, June 1, 1991, Roland Green, review of Second Star, p. 1861; March 1, 1994, Emily Melton, review of A Cold-Blooded Business, pp. 1183, 1188; January 1, 1995, Roland Green, review of Red Planet Run, pp. 1312, 1317; March 15, 1995, Emily Melton, review of Play with Fire, pp. 1312, 1317; April 15, 1996, Emily Melton, review of Blood Will Tell, pp. 1424, 1428; May 15, 1997, John Rowen, review of Breakup, p. 1567; February 15, 1998, John Rowen, review of Killing Grounds, p. 989; September 1, 1998, John Rowen, review of Fire and Ice, p. 72; September 1, 1999, John Rowen, review of So Sure of Death, p. 74; September 1, 2000, John Rowen, review of Nothing Gold Can Stay, p. 70; August, 2003, John Rowen, review of A Grave Denied, p. 1962.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1998, review of Killing Grounds, p. 158; April 1, 1999, review of Hunter's Moon, p. 492; September 1, 1999, review of So Sure of Death, p. 1350; July 15, 2002, review of Better to Rest, p. 999; December 1, 2005, review of Blindfold Game, p. 1260.
Kliatt, September, 1999, review of A Cold Day for Murder, p. 52; May, 2004, Nancy Chaplin, review of A Grave Denied, p. 50; May, 2005, Bette Ammon, audiobook review of A Taint in the Blood, p. 50.
Library Journal, March 1, 1994, Rex E. Klett, review of Cold-Blooded Business, p. 123; February 1, 1995, Rex E. Klett, review of Play with Fire, p. 103; September 1, 1995, review of A Cold-Blooded Business, p. 236; May 1, 1996, Rex E. Klett, review of Blood Will Tell, p. 137; June 1, 1997, Rex E. Klett, review of Breakup, p. 156; March 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Killing Grounds, p. 131; September 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Fire and Ice, p. 219; April 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Hunter's Moon, p. 133; January 1, 2006, Beth Lindsay, review of Blindfold Game, p. 102.
New York Times Book Review, April 3, 1994, Marilyn Stasio, review of Hunter's Moon, p. 22; May 23, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Hunter's Moon, p. 33.
Publishers Weekly, May 18, 1992, review of A Cold Day for Murder, p. 64; June 14, 1993, review of Dead in the Water, p. 64; January 17, 1994, review of A Cold-Blooded Business, p. 410; February 6, 1995, review of Play with Fire, p. 79; April 1, 1996, review of Blood Will Tell, p. 59; April 21, 1997, review of Breakup, p. 64; January 19, 1998, review of Killing Grounds, p. 374; August 3, 1998, review of Fire and Ice, p. 77; April 19, 1999, review of Hunter's Moon, p. 64; October 4, 1999, review of So Sure of Death, p. 68; April 10, 2000, review of Midnight Come Again, p. 78; September 4, 2000, review of Nothing Gold Can Stay, p. 89; April 2, 2001, review of The Singing of the Dead, p. 42; May 27, 2002, review of A Fine and Bitter Snow, p. 40; August 19, 2002, review of Better to Rest, p. 70; September 23, 2002, review of The Mysterious North: Tales of Suspense from Alaska, p. 57; August 30, 2004, review of A Taint in the Blood, p. 35.
School Library Journal, November, 1992, review of A Cold Day for Murder, p. 147; September, 1994, Diane Goheen, review of A Cold-Blooded Business, p. 256; June, 2000, Pam Spencer, review of So Sure of Death, p. 174.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1991, review of Second Star, p. 182; February, 1992, Vicky Burckholder, review of A Handful of Stars, p. 387; April, 1992, review of Second Star, p. 11; June, 1995, Vicky Burckholder, review of Red Planet Run, p. 110; December, 1997, review of A Cold Day for Murder, p. 295.
Washington Post Book World, July 20, 1997, review of Breakup, p. 10.
Wilson Library Bulletin, November, 1993, Gail Pool, review of Dead in the Water, p. 86; June, 1995, Gail Pool, review of Play with Fire, p. 98.
Dana Stabenow Web site,http://www.stabenow.com (May 9, 2006).*