Russell Heath’s new book “Rinn’s Crossing” is a political thriller set in Southeast Alaska. A virtual launch event will be held with Hearthside Books July 16, 2020. (Courtesy Photo } Russell Heath)

Russell Heath’s new book “Rinn’s Crossing” is a political thriller set in Southeast Alaska. A virtual launch event will be held with Hearthside Books July 16, 2020. (Courtesy Photo } Russell Heath)

‘Alaska’s first political thriller’: New novel uses lived experiences to tell its story

Man-made conflict and natural beauty.

Russell Heath was drawn to Southeast Alaska by its natural beauty.

“I moved down to Juneau for the same reason everyone moves to Juneau — I wanted to be by the mountains and the ocean simultaneously,” Heath said in a phont interview.

But his new Southeast-set novel deals in man-made drama.

“Rinn’s Crossing” is a political thriller that draws on Heath’s 35 years living in Alaska and his experiences working in the capital city as a lobbyist.

Its intertwining plots, which focus on a woman accused of murder and a polarizing bill package making its way through the Legislature during special session, are driven by Alaska- and Southeast-specific issues, including conservation and subsistence rights.

[Planet Alaska: The Art of Salmon]

“The book could not have happened anywhere else,” Heath said in a phone interview. “It’s about Native rights, it’s about conservationists vs. developers. It’s about people who love the state and love it in many different ways, and there’s conflict.”

Heath said while some minor characters may have recognizable real-world analogues, the main characters are works of fiction. However, much of the political maneuvering in the book is based on reality.

“Almost all of the legislative twists that happen in this novel have happened in Alaska history,” Heath said. “When, I was a lobbyist I heard a lot of what people did. So those are true —except for the last twist.”

Heath said he took care to craft a plot with a propulsive sense of urgency, which he said can be a challenge when writing about the legislative process.

“I wanted to write a legislative thriller, so Alaska’s first political thriller,” Heath said. “This is a book you can’t put down. It’s a really exciting book. It just drives you through.”

He also worked to write a novel that focuses on political themes without advocating for a particular perspective.

“All four main characters have a point of view, and I make sure they get to say it,” Heath said.

Readers’ personal points of view may decide whether someone considers a character and their motives good or bad, Heath said.

”It’s a political book, but I really tried to keep the ideology out of it,” Heath said.

Since Alaska and its politics are essential to “Rinn’s Crossing,” Heath had hoped to tour the state to promote the book. However, family matters and pandemic mean he will instead make virtual appearances from Washington County, Maine.

A launch event for the book with Hearthside Books is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 16. People can sign up to reserve a spot through the book store’s website, https://www.hearthsidebooks.com/; through Heath’s website, https://russellheathauthor.com/book-launch/; or by going to https://mailchi.mp/7f295996640f/hearthside.

Heath said preparing for a virtual launch event is a new experience, but one that’s similar to the adjustments everyone is making as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a first time for me,” Heath said.”It’s actually easy in term of the techniques. Zoom has become the medium of the moment. I’m practicing to make sure I have all the nuts and bolts squared away.”

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

Know & Go

What: “Rinn’s Crossing” Launch Event

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, July 16

Where: https://mailchi.mp/7f295996640f/hearthside

Russell Heath is the author of the new novel “Rinn’s Crossing.” The political thriller draws from Heath’s year’s living in Alaska and experiences with state government. (Courtesy Photo } Russell Heath)

Russell Heath is the author of the new novel “Rinn’s Crossing.” The political thriller draws from Heath’s year’s living in Alaska and experiences with state government. (Courtesy Photo } Russell Heath)

More in News

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Thursday, March 4

The most recent state and local numbers.

This Sept. 2008 photo provided by the Center for Whale Research taken near Washington state’s San Juan Islands shows scientists looking for clues about the diet of the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orcas using a pool skimmer to collect the scales or other remains of salmon the whales had eaten. A long-term study published Wednesday, March 3, 2021, reaffirmed the importance of Chinook salmon to the whales even when they cruise the outer Pacific Coast, where the fish are harder to find. (Ken Balcomb / Center for Whale Research)
Study: Chinook salmon are key to Northwest orcas all year

That includes fish that spawn in California’s Sacramento River all the way to the Taku River.

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., listens during the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Some Republican senators labeled Haaland “radical” over her calls to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and address climate change, and said that could hurt rural America and major oil and gas-producing states. The label of Haaland as a “radical” by Republican lawmakers is getting pushback from Native Americans. (Jim Watson / Pool Photo)
Senate energy panel backs Haaland for interior secretary

Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Wednesday, March 3

The most recent state and local numbers.

The 52-foot fishing vessel, Haida Lady, submerged between Cobb Island and Silver Point South of Sitka, Alaska, February 28, 2021. (Courtesy photo / U.S. Coast Guard)
Unknown amount of diesel spilled after boat sinks south of Sitka

Clean up and investigation into the sinking are underway.

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Thursday, March 4, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson works with villages, tribes, businesses, and government to protect the Tongass and advance Indigenous management of natural resources. (Courtesy Photo / Brian Wallace for Juneau Climate Change Solutionists)
Juneau Climate Change Solutionists: Protecting Forests through Indigenous land management with Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson

Our greatest role in the global fight against climate change is to protect our land.

A phone screen displays a message warning of a potential spam call. Alaska Department of Public Safety warns of a new scam involving text messages sent to the family members of missing people. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Department of Public Safety warns of scam targeting families of missing people

Scammers trawl social media for info, according to the department.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML)
COVID at a glance for Tuesday. March 2

The most recent state and local numbers.

Most Read