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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt
Know & Go
What: “Rinn’s Crossing” Launch Event
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, July 16