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A 'Beastly' new case for young Jackaby.

Byline: Brian Juenemann For The Register-Guard

Department store seasonal display aisles have transformed from back-to-school to black and orange, with a slight aroma of chocolate and latex.

Potted pansies have given way to piles of future jack-o'-lanterns on the front walkway at the grocery store.

William Ritter and his publisher could not have selected a more perfect time to deliver a book titled "Beastly Bones," the follow-up to the Springfielder's Pacific Northwest Book Award-winning best-seller, "Jackaby."

This time around, shape-shifting house pets and a strange - of course - murder in the grungy bustle of New Fiddleham compel Jackaby to a nearby pastoral valley and a mysterious fossil discovery.

Circumstances of the case also lead the paranormal detective to periodically defer to his increasingly enlightened and confident assistant, Abigail Rook, who knows a thing or two about a "dig" and just might be figuring out her boss, as well.

The Sherlockian team (I picked up the adjective in a review and can't help but borrow) is joined by moon-sensitive former New Fiddleham detective Charlie Barker, dueling diva paleontologists, a Hagrid-meets-Yukon Cornelius beast tracker, a fierce journalist and a cast of valley-dwellers who had a much easier time tending the livestock than managing this descending menagerie.

Fans of Jackaby's original mystery as well as those new to his jangly pocketed coattails will have no trouble making the trip to the valley and managing the mythologically magical "Beastly Bones."

Post-Hurricane Katrina novel

The fact that you'll get a "Roll Tide" out of Portland's Ellen Urbani, instead of a symmetrically handed "O" or chant of O-S-U, tells you she's not your typical Northwesterner.

The Southern expat brings a very different voice to the local literary landscape with her intricately imagined and impressively rendered post-Hurricane Katrina novel, "Landfall."

Two girls, both 18, sharing a name, living in proximity but in different worlds - until their fates swirl in the wake of Katrina's cataclysmic untethering.

Then, one lost. The other, living lost. Together, defining and validating one another.

For me, Urbani's storytelling evokes tinges of Toni Morrison, where the stains and impressions of history - personal, familial, institutional - trail just behind the present, forever threatening to float up like a blanket on the wind and smother the hope of loving and being loved but never quite heavy enough to anchor the story in desperation.

Cindy Heidemann, a Northwest sales rep for the book's publisher and former manager of the General Books department at the UO Bookstore (we were there together before it was the Duck Store), said this about "Landfall:"

"This story could have fallen into maudlin territory but Urbani never lets that happen. I grew to love all the characters and she does an unflinching job of bringing the chaos, terror and sadness of Katrina to life in a way so primary and so removed from what we saw on the news. She is a seriously good writer."

That, from a seriously good judge.

For writers

Iconic novelist, essayist, poet and Portlander Ursula K. Le Guin hunkers in her wheelhouse with an updated edition of her popular 1998 fiction writers' guide, "Steering the Craft," its subtitle now reading, "A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story."

In her introduction, Le Guin notes how she recognized a rapid evolution of writing and publishing after the millennial shift that probably necessitated an "update" to her book, a realization that eventually resulted in rewriting it "from stem to stern."

And if you should wonder if the 85-year-old is the right instructor for the new wave, you'll answer your own question on the first page of the new introduction. The octogenarian spitfire's voice is as playful and relevant as ever.

"Fifteen or more years ago, I was getting students in my workshops who were serious, talented writers yet were afraid of semicolons and likely to confuse a point of view with a scenic vista."

Gotta love her.

At the south end of the Willamette Valley, Springfield's GladEye Press has recently released the first book in its 10 Takes series, "Pacific Northwest Writers: Perspectives on Writing" (

Portland writer Jennifer Roland interviews 10 regional authors working in a diverse array of genres - novels, plays, poems, comics, children's - who share the ins and outs of their craft and the manner in which the Pacific Northwest plays a supporting role.

Popular and successful writers such as Portland comic book writer Greg Rucka, Eugene's L.J. Sellers of the Detective Jackson Mysteries fame, and Mercy Thompson series maestro and Washingtonian Patricia Briggs are among Roland's personable and enlightening subjects.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, Eugene Public Library welcomes journalist and political cartoonist Ted Rall, author of "Snowden," a graphic biography of the National Security Agency whistleblower.

EPL promotion calls it "one part spy thriller, one part profile in civic courage, and one part meditation on the subtle balance between privacy and security in the new Information Age."

Sounds three parts brilliant.

Also to visit the Eugene Library, expert channeler of the teenage voice A.S. King presents her new high school farce about standardized testing, "I Crawl Through It," at 6 p.m. Oct. 7.

EPL says "King creates compelling characters and plots exploring a wide variety of profound themes including freedom; destiny; power and its abuses; inequality; loss; guilt; celebrity; and the complex relationships among past, present, and future."

I couldn't have tied this column together any better.

Brian Juenemann is the marketing director for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and a contributing editor for
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Title Annotation:The Local Shelf; Springfield author William Ritter offers follow-up to best-seller
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 27, 2015
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