Blown by the Same Wind

Blown by the Same Wind

by John Straley

Narrated by T. Ryder Smith

John Straley

Unabridged — 6 hours, 55 minutes

Blown by the Same Wind

Blown by the Same Wind

by John Straley

Narrated by T. Ryder Smith

John Straley

Unabridged — 6 hours, 55 minutes

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Things in the sleepy fishing town of Cold Storage, Alaska, are changing. It's the summer of 1968; the men are wearing their hair long, the Vietnam War is at its height, and multiple assassinations have gripped the country. But some things remain the same. Ellie's
bar is still the place to catch up on the town gossip, and there's a lot to talk about, from the boys who have returned from the war (and the ones who haven't), to the robberies that are plaguing the locals, to the new guy in town: a famous monk from Kentucky.
Ellie, herself a fugitive of sorts, is curious about this “Brother Louis” and worries about his motives, but he seems harmless enough. However, when a handful of other outsiders arrive to town and start poking around the bar and asking
questions, she begins to have reservations. Have they followed this mysterious monk, rumored to be the famous author Thomas Merton, to Cold Storage? And what is it that they want, particularly the inept FBI agent with the strange name:
Boston Corbett?
Inspired by assassination conspiracy theories, the life of Thomas Merton, and the changing tide of the '60s, Blown by the Same Wind is a coming-of-age story for the town of Cold Storage itself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

★ 09/26/2022

It’s 1968 in Straley’s excellent fourth novel set in Cold Storage, Alaska (after 2020’s What’s Time to a Pig?), and the remote fishing community deals with an influx of outsiders, including real-life poet and peace activist Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, on leave from his abbey as a result of his antiwar activities; a pair of bigoted sport fishermen; and Boston Corbett, a bumbling FBI agent who has personal reasons for coming to Cold Storage. As the visitors mix with the locals, notably bar owner Ellie Hobbes, questions rise, among them: who’s responsible for the town’s recent series of petty burglaries and thefts? and why are the two sport fishermen suddenly interested in a mummified corpse known as the Old General stored in the bar’s root cellar? Serious crime, when it finally arrives, does so with unexpected violence in the form of murder, hostage taking, and a riveting sea chase during a storm. Readers looking for action will be amply rewarded, but the book’s main appeal lies in the vividly drawn characters and the author’s enchanting descriptions of the Alaskan outdoors. This thoughtful look at the politics and culture of a bygone era should win Straley new fans. Agent: Kerry D’Agostino, Curtis Brown. (Dec.)

From the Publisher

Praise for Blown by the Same Wind

“[A]n impressive adventure thriller suffused with metaphysical concerns.”
—Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal

“The grounding presence of Merton and a traumatized Vietnam vet he befriends lend the book a gentle spirituality. Even in a world torn by war and racism, they exemplify the notion that goodness and grace are possible.”
—Air Mail

“John Straley, one of Alaska’s best-known and best-loved writers, continues to deliver . . . Straley has brought together an intriguing mix of historical events to play within his wild imagination.”
Anchorage Daily News

“Well worth reading.”
Dayton Daily News

“Cold Storage feels like a living, breathing place from the start, the author describing all the little details of life in an easy-going, fluid style . . . There is extreme beauty in Straley’s writing, countered with extreme brutality at points in the story . . . This is a great novel if you seek a world to escape into and ponder for hours afterwards.”
—Crime Fiction Lover

“The action unfolds amid deep discussions among the characters of religion, philosophy, war and peace, the law, and politics—all leading to a surprising climax and unexpected conclusion. An engaging, if quirky, read.”
—New York Journal of Books

“If you've embraced Donald Westlake, Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, or the Junior Bender books from Timothy Hallinan, I hope you're already ordering a copy of Blown by the Same Wind. You're going to have a lot of fun.”
—Kingdom Books

“A stunner. Straley weaves his wonderful, idiosyncratic characters into a twisty plot and a beautifully rendered setting.”
—Historical Novels Review

“Terrific . . . Like the earlier novels in the series, this one is funny and quirky, a lighter change of pace from the Younger books and a delight for fans of small-town comic mysteries with a bit of bite.”
Booklist, Starred Review

“Excellent . . . Readers looking for action will be amply rewarded, but the book’s main appeal lies in the vividly drawn characters and the author’s enchanting descriptions of the Alaskan outdoors. This thoughtful look at the politics and culture of a bygone era should win Straley new fans.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“[Blown by the Same Wind] reads like a cross between historical fiction and mystery, with a dose of off-the-wall weirdness thrown in for good measure.”
Library Journal

“Reliably off-kilter . . . Perfect.”
Kirkus Reviews

Praise for the Cold Storage Novels

“[Straley] writes crime novels populated by perpetrators whose hearts are filled with more poetry than evil.”
The Wall Street Journal

“It’s always a pleasure to read Straley’s vivid studies of these folks—the slightly cracked, rugged and very funny characters of the Far North.”
The Seattle Times

“What a warm, engaging, profoundly human book this is: its skin crackling, its heart enormous and open. It's a mystery with judicious blasts of violence and dread, but it opens also onto the bigger mysteries—of community, of family, of place. The several lives that intertwine throughout the story reach moments of quiet grace that resonate stealthily but deeply.”
John Darnielle, author of Devil House

“Straley’s prose is achingly perceptive, cinematically vivid and just pure pleasure to read.”
—Scott Hawkins, author of The Library at Mount Char

“Straley has brought together what are clearly social and political issues he cares deeply about—even as he lampoons them . . . John Straley takes us on a wild ride, but with the reins held firmly in his able hands.”
Anchorage Daily News

Library Journal


Straley's fourth "Cold Storage" novel (following What Is Time to a Pig?) reads like a cross between historical fiction and mystery, with a dose of off-the-wall weirdness thrown in for good measure. Brother Lewis, a Trappist monk, author, and accused communist sympathizer, comes to Cold Storage, AK, in the late 1960s under a cloud of suspicion. A series of break-ins also lie at the heart of the novel's many disconnected mysteries. The author spends the first five chapters setting the scene, and the exceedingly slow pace could dissuade readers. Straley doesn't give enough attention to the many historical events included in the story. The atrocities of the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King Jr's assassination, the Red Scare, among other real-life events, are covered in just over 200 pages. Ultimately, the suspense picks up in the second half and ends with an abrupt but satisfying conclusion. VERDICT This book could serve as a stand-alone novel, but readers who enjoyed the first three novels in the series will like catching up with Ellie, Slip, and the other unusual characters in Cold Storage.—Jenny Shonk

Kirkus Reviews

Think nothing could possibly make Cold Storage, Alaska, any goofier? Think again.

The summer of 1968 brings five new arrivals to the little fishing village. The first is a rash of burglaries—nothing too serious but more than a nuisance and well outside the competence of George Hanson, the Seattle cop who followed barkeeper Ellie Hobbes and boat keeper Slippery Wilson to Cold Storage and settled there as an unofficial lawman. The second is Brother Louis, a Trappist monk sent forth from Gethsemane, Kentucky, to dim the publicity his Cistercian monastery has gained from the books he’s published as Thomas Merton. The third is FBI agent, or maybe ex-agent, Boston Corbett, who’s traveled there to have a word with Brother Louis about his possible Communist sympathies. The fourth and fifth are George Atzerodt and Ed Spangler, a pair of racist agitators bent on recruiting equally weak-minded souls to their visionary cause and acquiring the Old General, a mummy Ellie grew up with back in the Haywood Saloon. Word on the streets is that the Old General’s remains are actually those of actor/assassin John Wilkes Booth, and the insurrectionists think they’d be an inspiration to the followers they hope to enlist. It’s hard for the Cold Storage natives to keep up with this many star-crossed arrivals, but Straley assigns a memorable role to Venus Myrtle, a 16-year-old who inspires mystical dreams in Brother Louis and straight-up lust in the sons of the Confederacy. Fans of this loopy series, licking their lips in anticipation of the ensuing complications, won’t expect everything to be tied up in a neat bundle, and it isn’t.

Resonant 1968 memories, racist conspiracies, Zen-like mysticism, and the reliably off-kilter takes of the regulars. Perfect.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940175007214
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 12/06/2022
Series: Cold Storage , #4
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 1,230,209

Read an Excerpt

Although that August of 1968 had been relatively dry, in the beginning of the third week a slight low-pressure system moved in from the southwest with fifteen-mile-an-hour winds, causing moderate turbulence from sea level to fifteen hundred feet. But because of the clouds, the ceiling came down to seven hundred feet.
     Brother Louis was anxious about flying. He had very little experience in small airplanes, let alone planes that took off and landed on the water. He had been disoriented ever since he left Kentucky. He had been planning this trip for two years, and at first he assumed it was going to be an out-and-back adventure, an opportunity to be in a remote location where he would be left alone to meditate and write. Someplace where his readers could not just drop in on him. But now he was not sure what he wanted. After his last talk with the abbot, he was feeling more like he had been exiled. He had traveled to Anchorage and around Juneau. He had met the nuns of the Catholic Church who spent their new lives teaching Native children, yet Alaska felt forbidding. Mountains rose straight up from the sea, with their rock walls and summer snowfields. The landscape was largely vertical, hard and cold. He became more and more aware that he was a heartbroken old man, soft and warm-blooded in a world of hard surfaces. God seemed to have His hands out like a traffic cop commanding pilgrims to stop and reconsider their path. He had imagined this as a trip to find other likeminded pilgrims, but the more he saw of the country the more he felt like a refugee.
     Then there was his problem with the FBI. They had certainly frightened his abbot, but Brother Louis doubted the country’s top law enforcement agency would follow him to Alaska. He was not a criminal. He was a writer.
     Annabelle walked from behind the wooden desk she shared with other pilots in the Juneau airfield. She had some papers in her hand, and her braids still poked through her ball cap.
     “Louis?” She stood over him.
     “Ah . . . yes,” he said as if waking from a troubled sleep.
     “Good. You want to go to Cold Storage? This way.” She pointed to a door to the airfield. She didn’t wait for his answer. He simply walked behind her as if he had no choice in the matter.
     The flight from Juneau was not particularly rough, but it took a bit longer because Annabelle had to stay out of the inland passages as she followed the coast down. There were just a few bumps. She looked over at the brother once she had cleared the floatplane pond, then rose up above the islands to the west. She had just the one passenger: a surprisingly handsome man with short hair who appeared to be very fit and in his early fifties. When he looked at the map, he put on his horn-rimmed reading glasses. He was wearing a plaid shirt and blue jeans under a dark navy coat. She had half been expecting a fat man in a long robe eating a big loaf of bread and chugging a jug of wine, but instead this man looked like Ken Kesey when he smiled: big shoulders and strong arms. He had only one bag and a briefcase, which he carried, and a nice-looking camera, which he used quite often during the flight. He had many questions about the islands—who lived on them and how people survived. Annabelle did her best to answer his questions, but the engine noise made it difficult. They stopped to deliver mail in Pelican and the brother wanted to run around the town for a bit, but she asked him to stay close because they were not going to be there long. Brother Louis snapped a few photographs and asked her how she came into the country. When she told the story of her aunt and the Industrial Workers of the World, about the police chasing them and the policeman staying to live alongside them in the little roadless fishing town, Brother Louis was fascinated and could hardly contain himself from asking even more questions. Questions that Annabelle cut off by grabbing Pelican’s small pouch of outgoing mail to Cold Storage and starting the engine.
     It was just a twenty-minute flight down the coast to get to Cold Storage. Annabelle circled over the town and buzzed the boardwalk. Then she flew a bit south and circled the little harbor with the grass flats up next to the steep mountain where Slippery and Ellie’s old cabin sat. This time of year there was a small coho salmon run, and two brown bears were fishing in the stream that ran near the cabin. Rain was falling now, and as the de Havilland Beaver banked hard to turn back toward town, Annabelle pointed down and yelled over the engine noise, “That’s the cabin I grew up in. That’s Ellie’s old place she told you about.” Brother Louis took another photo and then looked up with a broad smile.
     “The bears . . . are they always there?” he yelled as she pulled back on the power and leveled out, pumping the flaps.
     “Naw,” she said, “mostly just when the fish are around. They won’t bother you when they are eating fish. You got a gun?”
     He shook his head as if it were something he had never considered.
     “We’ll take care of ya.” Annabelle smiled, powered down even more, and began to put the floats on the water near the harbor.
Ellie’s bar had a small outdoor counter built under the eaves of the roof, and the bartender could serve five customers seated outside while they tended the bar inside. A sliding window kept things dry when the weather blew in hard. It wasn’t quite legal because the outside bar was reserved mostly for kids, who were not allowed into bars anytime alcohol was being served. But Ellie was sick of answering phone calls from kids asking permission for all kinds of ridiculous nonsense from their drunken parents, and refused to take responsibility for passing on instructions—or worse, lying—to children about their parents’ wishes. So it was well known that if a child came to Ellie’s any time of the day or night they could sit outside, rap on the window, and Ellie would give them a glass of soda, and they could talk to whomever they wanted. Sometimes Ellie had cookies for which she might charge a dime, but real store-bought candy bars went for full price. Ellie was stingy about those because she was worried about most of the kids’ teeth. She cut them off after two sodas, then served them ice water and sweet cherries after that.
     The day Brother Louis walked into Ellie’s and set down his bag, Glen was sitting drinking his usual coffee and brandy, wearing his army jacket, and Ellie was letting him play her newest Lovin’ Spoonful album. Glen was nodding along with “Summer in the City.” Sitting on a high stool at the outside bar was a sixteen-year-old girl who was about to turn seventeen. She was blond and wore a short neon red-and-green tie-dyed dress with a thick rope of cheap wooden beads around her neck. Her hair seemed the color of spun gold and hung down her back uncombed but looked to be freshly washed. A person would be forgiven for being confused about how old she was because the girl herself seemed to be confused about her age. It seemed she had grown to maturity in just a matter of weeks. Yet most of her gestures and expressions were still childish.
     Slippery and George, who was Ellie’s oldest and best friend, had recently commented on Venus’s development, telling Ellie she needed to keep an eye on her before a rascal high school boy married her. Ellie had ignored them, but deep down inside she knew there was some truth to their words.
“Brother Louis, I’m Ellie Hobbes. I run the place, the bar and the cabins. My man Slippery runs the boat. I’m sure you’ll be seeing him around. Good to meet you.” She put her hand out and he shook it. The brother looked down and noticed her left hand. She was missing two fingers completely and half of her middle finger. He couldn’t help wincing, though the stumps seemed to be healthy and well healed.
     He has kind eyes, Ellie thought, but the type of tightness around them suggested he was feeling some pain.
     “It’s very good to meet you,” he said in a resonant voice.
     Did he have an accent of some kind? Ellie couldn’t be sure. Maybe eastern? Maybe Southern? Maybe he was just one of those intelligent fellas.
     “Are you the kind of brother who can stand a drink before dinner?” she asked, and here Glen looked up at him.
     “What are others having?” He looked around.
     “I’m drinking brandy,” Glen said.
     “I’ve got 7UP,” the young woman from outside said.
     Brother Louis scratched his chin and looked around. “Well, after that flight over the mountains, I’m awful tempted to have a brandy with you, friend, but I think I will have what the lady is having. But could I buy a round for everyone?”
     They all smiled as Brother Louis walked over to the end of the bar, where he was close to the open window and could get a good look at Glen.
     The girl had her back to the rain just as the sun broke through the clouds. A rainbow showed over her head and the sun glowed behind her face. It was hard not to be stunned by her looks. She had both the angelic beauty of a Renaissance painting and the earthly sensuality of a much more worldly woman, but folded in on top of all that, she had the goofy body language of a child as she spun around on the barstool kicking her dirty bare feet and staring at the stranger in town.
     “My name is Louis,” he said, holding out his hand first to the girl and then to Glen.
     “My name is Venus!” the girl shouted, twisting her hair. “That’s my real name too. Some people think I made it up, but I didn’t. Venus. Venus Myrtle.” And she stopped her spinning to stare at him, so he could tell that her eyes were a bluish green.
     “I’m Glen Andre,” Glen said. Then he paused, looked up, and asked, “So are you a Franciscan?”
     The brother smiled and said, “No, I’m a Trappist brother a Cistercian actually. A brother of the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky.”
     “What’s a brother do?” Venus called out, while Ellie put another soda in front of her. The girl was clearly excited to have an exotic visitor in town. “Is it a job? Like a priest?” she almost yelled.
     “Wait a minute, baby. Remember, you can use your inside voice sitting here. He’s just right close, okay?” Ellie said.
     Venus shrugged, blushing. “Sorry . . .” she said, and she was.
     “That’s all right. Yes, being a Trappist is a job. It’s really one of the greatest jobs anyone can have.”
     “Whattaya DO?” Again, she almost yelled, and again she was embarrassed. “What do you do?” she repeated in a small voice.
     “We live together, and we do our best to love God, but more than that we do our best to be happy while doing it.”
     “Why?” Venus asked softly this time.
     “Because we hope if we do it successfully, if we can sustain ourselves loving God, if God sustains us and other people see how happy we are, then we hope that inspires others to love God as well.”
     “That is SO COOL!” Here Venus couldn’t contain herself. “Oh, yeah, just groovy,” Glen said, picking up his brandy glass, downing it in one gulp, and putting it softly down. “It’s nice work if you can get it, I suppose. I got to be going, folks. Thanks for the drink, Brother.”
     Then he was gone.
     The remaining three were silent for a moment.
     “He’s troubled . . .” Ellie began to explain.
     “No, that’s okay. I do put people off sometimes. I wasn’t going to introduce myself by the name I use in the abbey. Like I say, it puts people off, but I’m afraid I was a little charmed by your enthusiasm, Venus . . . Which is a perfect name for you, by the way.”
     “Thank you. Do you have another name?” she asked.
     “I do . . . but I will only tell you about it later when I’m getting ready to leave. Okay?” He smiled at her and held his finger to his mouth as if he were telling her to hush.

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