New York Times best-selling author, screenwriter, journalist, teacher and historian are all titles that describe Spokane native Jess Walter.
Longtime locals may recognize Walter’s byline from the Spokesman-Review newspaper. As a young reporter, his team coverage of the shootout and standoff at Ruby Ridge led to a 1992 Pulitzer Prize nod. The North Idaho impasse also became the subject of his first book, “Every Knee Shall Bow,” published in 1995.
Now a former National Book Award finalist and winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award, Walter is the author of seven novels, one book of short stories and one nonfiction book. He is also not unfamiliar with the New York Times best-seller list. His novel “Beautiful Ruins,” published in 2012, spent more than a year on the list.
His work has been translated into 32 languages, and his fiction has been selected three times for “Best American Short Stories.” His stories, essays and journalism have appeared in Harper’s, Esquire, Playboy, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Ploughshares, the New York Times, the Washington Post and many more.
Walter is also a former Everybody Reads author. His novel, “Citizen Vince,” was selected in 2005 as the featured read, bringing readers and authors together in the Palouse area and Lewis-Clark Valley. The 2020 Everybody Reads program, featuring Matthew Sullivan and his novel “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore,” has been postponed to November 2021, so the Latah County Library District is excited to offer a live author presentation in the meantime.
Next month, regional readers from eastern Washington to north central Idaho are invited to participate in a free interactive virtual author talk with Walter. Join us at 3 p.m. Jan.14 on Facebook Live to hear from the author about his newest work of fiction, “The Cold Millions.” The live-streamed virtual event will take place on the library’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/latahlibrary. You do not need a Facebook account to participate in the event, but if you have one, you are encouraged to RSVP to the event at the same web address.
Founded in history and aided by an inspired imagination, “The Cold Millions” is a captivating tale about 20th century American underdogs. Without giving too much away — the story is based on true events, but there are still spoilers to divulge — the book centers on a pair of transient brothers who land in Spokane during the free speech demonstrations that broke out in the early 1900s.
The city at this time was notorious for its poor working conditions and corrupt government officials, labor activism and dissent bubbling up in response. In this environment, the brothers try to find their place among the Wobblies, shady capitalists and lawless personalities of Spokane.
On top of characters imagined by Walter, the book also features real-life labor heroes such as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn — an activist and feminist who played a key role in the Industrial Workers of the World and was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union.
As well as discussing his latest novel, Walter will also be answering your questions. Submit questions to the author via tinyurl.com/JessWalterLCD, and if you are local to the Latah County area, you will be entered to win a copy of “The Cold Millions.” Viewers are encouraged to ask questions during the event by commenting on the livestream, but early submissions will receive priority.
The Latah County Library District is excited to connect readers with authors, as well as with the stories of local heroes — real or imagined.
Rosemary Anderson works in the circulation department at the Moscow Public Library.