Brian Payton knows the wilderness.
The British Columbia-based author has chronicled his own off-the-beaten-path travels in tracking down the eight remaining species of bears on Earth. He has also told the tale of a 19th-century ship and its crew sent into the Arctic in search of a lost expedition, only to find its own icy end.
Payton will bring his latest battle with the elements, "The Wind is Not a River," to Whidbey Island on April 13-14 for two free presentations. The first event will start at 2 p.m., April 13, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 18341 SR 525, Freeland, and the second at 7 p.m., April 14, Oak Harbor Library, 1000 Regatta Dr.
The public is also invited to an author reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. April 13 at Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge, 63 Jacobs Road, Coupeville. RSVPs requested to Jennifer O'Brien at the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation.
Payton’s visit is part of the annual Whidbey Reads program sponsored by Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation, Whidbey Island Friends of the Library groups and volunteers from across Whidbey Island. Other partners include Skagit Valley College, Best Western Harbor Plaza, Wind & Tide Books, and Moonraker Books.
In "The Wind is Not a River," Payton takes readers back to WWII and the mostly forgotten Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. He weaves the brutal facts of wartime with the emotions of human frailties and sets it all in the harsh realities of Alaska’s inhospitable environment. In the story, journalist John Easley, driven to uncover the truth of the invasion, is shot down over the Aleutian Islands where he struggles to survive and hide from Japanese patrols. Meanwhile, his wife, Helen, begins her own Alaskan journey by joining the USO in an effort to follow her husband and discover his fate.
“The environment in the Aleutian Islands is very much a character in the book,” Payton said by phone from his Vancouver Island home. “For the man, the environment is both his protection and a formidable enemy. For the woman, it is an unknown and persistent element in her search.”
As a teen, Payton spent time living in Anchorage where he first learned of the Battle of Attu during WWII. “In Alaska, the details are not well-known and outside of Alaska people generally have no knowledge,” he said.
A 2014 New York Times review called the book “gripping” and “meditative,” appropriate words given that the author’s background includes tracking down bears and an education by Benedictine monks at the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, BC.
“I’m so pleased to be invited to be part of the Whidbey Reads program,” Payton said. “It is a very special treat to speak with people who may have already read the book. My presentation will be on the story behind the story, what drew me to it and what it took to tell it.”
"The Wind is Not a River" is available for immediate download through April 30 in both digital and audio formats at Sno-Isle Libraries where print copies may also be reserved.
Whidbey Reads, with Brian Payton
April 13, 2 p.m.
Trinity Lutheran Church
18341 SR 525
Freeland, WA 98249
April 14, 7 p.m.
Oak Harbor Library
1000 Regatta Dr.
Oak Harbor, WA 98277-3091
Whidbey Reads is an annual program that brings Whidbey Island residents together to read and talk about a book. A series of public events focuses on themes related to the story. The shared experience serves as a springboard to explore commonalities and differences. Donations to the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation may be earmarked "Whidbey Reads" to help bring more great authors to Whidbey Island.