Seattleite Book Club: June 2011

Dear Seattleite Readers,

Welcome to the Seattleite Book Club – the only virtual book club that spotlights the Pacific Northwest’s own authors and publishers!

Photo: Smit/Veer

May’s title, Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs, was a very popular choice. “Ms. Briggs’ book is such a handy household addition!” raved Maggie from Bellevue. “Can’t wait to try out some of the recipes. ‘Make Your Place’ is a godsend,” said Kris from Montlake Terrace. “The illustrations were gorgeous,” noted Dawn from West Seattle, “the author has a good side career as an artist ahead of her.”

June’s Selection: Wire To Wire by Scott Sparling

There is a lot of movement in Wire to Wire, the debut novel from Portland writer Scott Sparling. The twisty plot follows protagonist Michael Slater as he traverses the United States, employing many modes of transportation along the way — including a Ford Ranchero, a ferry and, on several occasions, the railroad cars he cavalierly hops aboard to (illegally) reach his destination. However, the author is quick to characterize his work as more than just a travelogue.

“Travel is central to [Wire to Wire], but I don’t really think of it as a travel story,” he said. “For both Harp and Slater—the book’s two main characters—travel brings the possibility of danger, romance, epic screw-ups, small discoveries. I think of it as literary fiction that’s not afraid of plot, or a crime novel with a sensitive heart.”


Train-hopping — a central theme to the story — is a topic about which Sparling knows firsthand. In high school, he and his best friend would regularly ride the rails around Michigan. This led to ‘The Nowhere Special,’ as the two buddies called it — they’d work all winter, then use their savings to train-hop all summer, going wherever the freights took them.

“We rode all over the west and the southwest, around Puget Sound and across Canada,” Sparling said. “My friend knew freights—he taught me how to do it, basically. Today, he’s also a writer, with several nonfiction books about trains.”

Though this sprawling crime story is mostly set in Arizona and Northern Michigan, the author claims there is a lot of Seattle contained in the pages, as well. After all, Sparling is no stranger to the area — he spent a decade residing in the Emerald City, and penned the first drafts of Wire to Wire during his time here.

“When I was living in Seattle,” he explained, “I read an interview where [Bob] Dylan said, if you want to create something, go find the electricity. I was working for Seattle City Light, but that was clearly the wrong kind of electricity. So I quit my job, got an apartment on Beacon Hill and tried to teach myself to write.”

Additionally, Sparling also met one of his greatest professional influences while living in Seattle. The late Jack Cady, an award-winning writer who went on to teach at University of Washington (1968-1973) and Pacific Lutheran University (1985-1998), made an indelible impression on the author-to-be during his formative literary phase.

“I walked into Jack’s class one evening at Parrington Hall at UW. Everything I’ve done since stems from that in some way. Jack died in 2004, and I’m sorry that he never got to see what I learned from him. But he knew I’d finish it. I’m certain of that.”

To acquire a copy of Wire to Wire, please visit the novel’s official page on the Tin House Books Web site. A print copy can be purchased for $12.75; in addition, versions for Mobipocket Ebook ($9.99) and EPub Edition ($9.99) are also available. If you would like to attend a Wire to Wire reading by Scott Sparling, he’ll be appearing at the Elliott Bay Book Co. on June 21, and at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park on June 22.


About Tin House Books: Tin House Books is a Portland-based offshoot of the award-winning literary magazine Tin House. Started in 2005 by editorial director Lee Montgomery, the press publishes a dozen titles a year, primarily literary fiction and memoir. Its authors have garnered attention from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and O, the Oprah magazine. Visit their official Web site today.