Read The Big Both Ways by John Straley Online


A gripping period crime story, The Big Both Ways incorporates actual events and real places. In his much-anticipated new novel, Straley has crafted a completely original thriller that pays homage to Raymond Chandlers gritty detective stories and John Dos Passoss evocative U.S.A. trilogy. Readers will find The Big Both Ways filled with complex characters, passion, greed, feA gripping period crime story, The Big Both Ways incorporates actual events and real places. In his much-anticipated new novel, Straley has crafted a completely original thriller that pays homage to Raymond Chandlers gritty detective stories and John Dos Passoss evocative U.S.A. trilogy. Readers will find The Big Both Ways filled with complex characters, passion, greed, fear, and grief, yet buoyed by an undercurrent of hope and humanity....

Title : The Big Both Ways
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780882407326
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Big Both Ways Reviews

  • Terri
    2019-04-22 15:41

    As much as I like and respect John Straley, not that I know him well, I have read his novels of Cecil Younger with a touch of exasperation. I have a knee-jerk reaction against novelists that portray Alaskans as quirky throwbacks to whatever time isn't now and I am not terribly receptive to a style of writing that is more poetry than prose. Mind you, I am fully aware that both of these characteristics are in large part responsible for the success of John Straley novels, nevertheless...Having said that, I loved this book. The setting was the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska, during a time in history that is not generally embraced and/or publicized, the period of violent struggle between big business and labor unions. It was full of interesting characters whose quirks were accepted, by me, as being a result of actually living in a "time that isn't now." They became who they were and reacted as they did due to the difficult and turbulent era in which they lived. The prose did not aspire to poetry. It was beautiful in the way that the hands of a hard-working man or woman are beautiful. It was no-nonsense, workmanlike, but showing experience and skill in creating a world that I wanted to remain in for much much longer.

  • Sam Reaves
    2019-04-22 11:02

    The title refers to the Inside Passage up the west coast between Washington and Alaska, a big river that flows both ways. That's the setting for this picaresque tale of an unemployed logger, a female political agitator and a little girl with a pet bird who in 1935 take to an open boat to flee from Seattle after a murky intrigue that leaves a couple of bodies in car trunks. The cops and the strikebreaker thugs pursue them northward as they encounter threats of the natural and human varieties, getting a panoramic view of Depression-era miseries in a region of spectacular beauty along the way. The book suffers just a little from its attempt to be both a crime novel and a tale of seagoing adventure; the exposition is a little disjointed in the murder mystery aspects. But it's vivid and absorbing as a survival tale and a portrait of deprivation and social ferment in a region most of us will only see from the comfort of a cruise ship, if ever.

  • Stacey
    2019-04-29 14:02

    I loved this, so 4.5 stars. It's historical fiction and a prequel to Cold Storage, which is a hoot. This is not a hoot--it's spare and heartbreaking. In 1935, Slip, Ellie, Ellie's young niece, Annabelle and her pet bird, Buddy, escape bad juju of Ellie's making in Seattle on a dory, and head to Alaska. This is the story of how they got on that dory, the journey, and the aftermath. I loved the writing style, sort of a marriage of Ivan Doig and John Steinbeck.

  • Annabelle
    2019-05-02 15:04

    A good mystery read set in the rough and tumble Northwest and Alaska passage soon afher the Gold Rush and during the US depression. Straley is a young author who is also the writer laureate of Alaska, who takes his intimate, kinesthetic relationship of the Inside Passage to Alaska (also known as the big both ways, since the current flows north and south) to create a rich and vivid setting for three humans on the run. Slippery has farmed in eastern Washington, but looses the farm when his father dies, he is a great carpenter, but has to work in logging to get by. He saves $2,000 to go to Seattle, find his friend and buy a stake. But a beautiful blonde, a Red, a labor organizer catches him off guard and embroils him in her life of espionage with labor, security, the police, and mine owners. Murders abound, and the two are on the run with her niece, Annabelle, the only sane one, who studies, loves a yellow bird and has the courage to save both of them at times. Straley is a dense writer, with vivid descriptions which capture the hardships of being poor during the depression, the corruption of the mine owners, and the beauty and unforgivingness of the landscape.The character development was particularly good, with the main characters having believable actions and trajectories, and clear differences between them. I liked it.

  • Jen
    2019-04-25 13:10

    This is a fabulous historical mystery set in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska during the 1930s when trade unions and Communism were duking it out. Ellie is a Red with a heart but she's in trouble with the big boys -- one of them is lying dead in her trunk. Slip leaves his lumberjack job and hitches a ride with Ellie and things all go downhill from there. Eventually they both have to run so they take a tiny boat up the Inside Passage to Juneau, chased by police and bad guys all the way. The book has funny moments, and is evocative of the weather and scenery of the PNW -- but the mystery holds all the way to the end -- you don't even know if Ellie's a good guy or a bad -- you just have to get to know her!

  • Steve
    2019-04-21 10:03

    I gave this novel a rare -- for me -- five stars because it hit me on so many levels. It is a crime story set in the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s. The writing, plot, and characters are all first-rate. I felt like I belonged in this world.

  • Gary
    2019-05-19 15:05

    Just read it

  • Joan Huehnerhoff
    2019-04-29 13:06

    Excellent historical fiction of 1935 pacific northwest and the labor issues and crime.

  • ND
    2019-04-26 10:08

    quite a fun read, with tons of local color

  • Rogue Reader
    2019-04-28 16:09

    The Big Both Ways is an epic story along the lines of Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion, but is both more and less than that work. The Big Both Ways is a panorama of drama, history and geography as the Wobblies battle for political power and emerging trade unions seek humane working conditions in the forests and canneries of Oregon, Washington and Alaska -- they're fought at every stage by government agents. It's the myth and legend of all battles and heros who came before like Swedish labor activist Joe Hill, Sheriff McRae's murderous attack on the Steamship Verona in Everett, Washington and the castration and lynching of Wesley Everest in Centralia, Washington. It's the story of uncertain and unexpected love between Slip Wilson and Elle Hobbes, of women's freedom in an unlikely time and place, of hope and desperation, and of an incredible journey navigating a dory up Puget Sound's Inside Passage from Seattle to Alaska. Publishers Weekly and Booklist give Straley's work rare starred reviews. Publishers Weekly says: "In this gripping tale of survival, betrayal and murder set in the Pacific Northwest in 1935, Slip Wilson is just trying to find work, food and a little justice when he hooks up with a bottle blonde, Elle Hobbes, who drags him into her edgy, ragtag life. Straley's beautifully understated narrative, vivid sense of place and unapologetic, unadorned characters make this a riveting, unpredictable ride." And Booklist says, "If you want to read one novel about the Northwest in the grip of labor unrest, read this one."The Big Both Ways was published in 2008 by Alaska Northwest Books. John Straley is the author of six other award-winning novels set in Alaska with titles drawn from poetry and Native American tradition, like The Curious Eat Themselves, The Woman Who Married a Bear, Death and the Language of Happiness and others, published by Soho Press. He is also the author of The Rising and the Rain, a collection of poetry published in 2008. John Straley was Alaska's Writer Laureate 2006-2008. During the day he is an investigator with the Alaska Public Defenders Office, specializing in homicide on burning boats. His wife Jan is a marine biologist at the University of Alaska and spends her days watching whales and researching their nutritional habits. Straley and his wife were guests of the Ashland Mystery Readers Group event series in 2008 and they love Southern Oregon. Southern Oregon loves John Straley.

  • Jim
    2019-05-07 16:10

    This book is set in 1935, with the depression in full swing and jobs hard to come by. Slip Wilson has been working as a logger since the bank took his family’s farm, but quits when a friend is killed. He knows that the unsafe working environment fostered by the logging company’s management is to blame and doesn’t want to end up like his friend, so he walks off the job and heads for Seattle. Along the way he comes to the aid of an attractive young woman, Ellie Hobbes who has car trouble. Ellie is a labor organizer and although Slip doesn’t know it, there is a dead body in the trunk. Even though he is told to stay away from her, Slip quickly finds himself emotionally involved and caught up in a web of violence. They flee Seattle together heading for Alaska, up the inside passage in a small boat, accompanied by Ellie’s niece, Annabelle and her pet bird Buddy. Hot on their trail are some very unsavory characters and a Seattle policeman. Straley skillfully maneuvers the major players and makes it all work together as he crafts an unusual tale that I found to be an enjoyable visit to the first half of the last century.

  • Georgina
    2019-05-22 14:02

    This is the second book I have read by John Straley and enjoyed it immensely. It takes place in 1935 when a logger leaves camp and meets up with a woman who he helps to get her car out of a ditch. They head to Seattle and life as he knows it or life as he plans it completely changes.The logger, the woman, her niece and her bird have to flee Seattle but they do so in a dory taking to the inland waterways from Seattle to Juneau, Alaska. They are being chased by thugs as well as the law. What is so intriguing about this whole "chase" is that it seems to be going in slow motion -- the logger is rowing a dory and the law and thugs are on a steamer ship. They have to travel through waters that governed by weather and tides. They get separated and come back together only to be separated again; they almost get caught, but then manage to get away.However, after all is said and done -- it has a happy ending!!!John Straley writes so well and is a wonderful storyteller. I read his first book, "The Woman Who Married a Bear" and it too was a grand story.I'm looking forward to finding and reading more of his books.

  • Kay
    2019-05-21 11:48

    My first impression of this book about the mid-30s anarchists trying to organize workers in Washington state and the territory of Alaska in the face of violent union organizers and private security companies was that it was overwritten, bordering on purple prose*. After a lush introductory portion, though, the beauty of the writing provided the perfect ironic background for a desperate and violent story. I also liked that the story was not an Emile Zola gritty one of detailed struggle in poverty and violence and dirt, but used natural beauty, especially for long sea trips through Alaska's Inner Passage in a dory(!), for a story of huge discomfort and pain, struggle, and finally, violence. It made a deeper impression on me to be delivered in the beauty of the language Straley uses. Detail may seem overdone, but it does give a vivid picture of the places and the times and the people he presents to us.* ring girdling his finger; birds on their pipe cleaner legs; blood oiling over his white shirt; the "intricate guts" of a watch (for some short examples)

  • Amanda Paisley
    2019-04-22 10:55

    Nearly 80 pages into this book, I still couldn't connect with the main characters. Clearly the author has an excellent grip on the rich union and anti-union history of this time period. Unfortunately, he fails to build the characters in the novel in such a way as to engage the reader. I almost felt as though two stories were taking place within this novel: 1) a thorough non-fiction account of the Depression-era union events around Seattle and 2) a tale of two one-dimensional characters fleeing from upheaval. The characters were flat and lacked the depth necessary to weave them into the action-adventure plot that was taking place. In short, the story felt awkward, it didn't flow, and the characters were difficult to understand or relate to.

  • Michael Tedin
    2019-05-06 16:04

    This book is less a murder mystery than an historical novel of union organizers and the less than savory methods used by the anti-union private security companies as well as the union organizers themselves. The story starts and ends with murders and there are plenty throughout, but it doesn't follow the typical detective story of trying to figure out what is going on. Who does what to whom is pretty clear. It is beautifully written, with evocative scenes and well drawn characters. It captures the feel of mid century Alaska and the wilderness of the Inside Passage. In many ways, it reminds me of Ken Kesey's Sometimes A Great Notion.

  • Susan Emmet
    2019-05-12 15:59

    Somehow this novel reminds me of "Sometimes A Great Notion."Not as good, but good nonetheless.I like the way Straley invites characters into the story, chapter by chapter.I was so taken by Annabelle and her bird, and somewhat less by Ellie and Slip, whose characters seemed less substantial.Anyway, the journey of three to Alaska, the material about unions and so many people from so many countries, the hardscrabble lives of so many in 1935, resonated with me.The will to fly, to be free, to suffer and find a way to "make it" are strong.I like Straley and am new to his work.And I like the title: you can't have it both ways and the current often runs at tide both ways. No doubt!

  • Margaret
    2019-05-01 13:44

    The setup for the "mystery" was good from the very first page. And the last 20 percent of the novel was fast-paced with a satisfying resolution (well, except for the last of couple of pages where Straley unnecessarily telescoped the future for all the main characters.) The rest of the novel was a very long "road" trip conducted on the inland waterway from Seattle to Juneau. There was a LOT of repetition and improbable plotting that did the novel no favors. I wholeheartedly endorse Straley's Cecil Younger series, but I don't recommend this as an entry point to his writing.

  • Jenine
    2019-05-03 07:51

    I prefer Cold Storage, the crummy yet cosy village story, over this noirish march up the Pacific Northwest. I did appreciate the street level view of labor issues in the mid '30s. I think that's the best part of the book. I didn't much enjoy being stuck on a small boat with these characters, cold and wet for most of the time. Might have been worth it for the description of raking a fire aside on the beach so they could sleep on the warm dry sand. That was delightful to imagine. Far too much cold salt water.

  • Gerry
    2019-05-02 10:59

    I wasn't so sure about this one. It took me a while to get into it but once I connected with the characters, I enjoyed it.It was interesting reading about the unions and the management and comparing it to what's happening here in the US in November 2008 with the government not wanting to bail out the auto industry and hearing politicians complaining about the high cost of union labor! I hope things never get as bad as the pre-union shop where a character is fired for getting hurt on the job and is told they'll charge her for the transportation and treatment!

  • Jonathan Anderson
    2019-04-21 07:51

    As a "crime" novel (which is what the synopsis in the jacket tells me this is), this one's a bit of a wash. There's a promising set up for a thriller, and then they're in a boat for almost two hundred pages. If this is a "crime" novel, then it's about the most leisurely pursuit I've ever read.Luckily, Straley's ability to write characters carries him a long way. The book's never a displeasure to read, and I found myself pretty attached to the little girl Annabelle by the end. I just wish Straley had an ability to end without spelling out those characters' fates for generations to come.

  • Tom Hooker
    2019-05-13 14:07

    This odyssey-like book, set in the Pacific Northwest during the depression years, gives the reader a look at the hard life of the dirt-poor. The main character falls in with an attractive woman, and thus finds himself in the middle of a fight between labor union and anti-union forces. He, the woman and a young girl flee from Puget Sound area up through the Inside Passage to Alaska, and trouble follows them each step of the way.

  • Janice
    2019-04-29 14:55

    I had first been introduced by a friend to John Straley's mysteries as they were set in Alaska and captured life up there and has interesting characters, well written. I prefer Straley's other works (Cecil Younger is the investigator) to this one. I found that it difficult to keep which characters were aligned with the Reds & union & Floodwater & other parties (and why this mattered) clear enough to enjoy the plot. I'd recommend reading his other works but not this one.

  • Glennchuck
    2019-05-21 09:54

    Some beautiful passages and the main characters were solid. Maybe it's because I don't read many mysteries and I read so darn slow, but by the end when he mentioned some lesser characters from the beginning, I'd forgotten too much about them to fully understand the end. The end, in fact, didn't seem as smooth and strong as the rest of the novel. This is a writer I might read again, though, as I'm told his detective series is really good and because most of this book was compelling.

  • Ellen
    2019-04-30 14:55

    1935 Seattle to Alaska adventure. Ellie, unionist accused of being a "Red", escapes by dory, with her niece Annabelle and friend Slip, to Alaska through the Big Both Ways waters. History of the time brought to life with a colorful cast of characters. Author John Straley has strong storytelling skills. Read the whole book in one evening.

  • Savannah
    2019-05-22 14:01

    I may like this one even better than the Cecil Younger series. The sense of period is excellently-wrought, as is the marine atmosphere as they make their way up the Inside Passage. And Straley's ability to portray the clueless and passive is marvelously done across all of the major characters. Does anyone do helplessly random better than he?

  • Letha
    2019-05-21 08:48

    Straley's Cecil Younger books, set in Alaska, are among my all-time favorite mysteries. However, his most recent book just didn't do it for me -- it seemed disjointed and pointless. The setting was great: From Seattle to Juneau in the 1930s. I only wish it had not wandered so far from its promising beginning.

  • Andrea
    2019-05-16 09:55

    I'm not a big mystery reader but this book had a unique story line with quirky, compelling characters. Do not put it down too many times before finishing- several side characters that are important to remember involved in storyline. Overall good, definitely recommended. Author shows his first-hand knowledge of the Inside Passage and southeast Alaska.

  • Rebecca
    2019-05-10 15:00

    I loved the "noir" feeling of the story. The interweaving of the Great Depression, 1930's communism and organized labor, and the wilderness created lots of twists and turns. Paired with Cold Storage, Alaska the novels brought a real sense of place combined with complex characters whose moral compasses were ambiguous. Great fun!

  • Nancy
    2019-05-16 16:06

    I tried reading this books many years ago, but didn't get very far. I had read all of Straley's earlier books and enjoyed them very much. Then I read his newest, Cold Storage Alaska. And on my 2nd try with The Big..., I finished it. I enjoyed it much more because his newest book had piqued my interest in the characters.

  • Christopher Smith
    2019-04-21 08:03

    John really makes Southeast Alaska come alive and provides a history lesson in labor dynamics as well. "The Big Both Ways" also provides background for "Cold Storage." Both books live up to the site's name.... good reads.