Title: Glacier World
Author: Fredrick Cooper
Genre: Adult Fiction / Thriller
While accompanying a close friend to Alaska, Earl Armstrong, a professional forester for a Pacific Northwest Indian Tribe, discovers that part of one of his shipments of high-value lumber, that is missing, was used by a dead Native woodcarver. Setting out to learn about this suspicious death, Earl and his friends become entangled with an international crime syndicate that employs sophisticated technology to steal valuable cargo transiting the Gulf of Alaska. There are suspicions concerning a soon-to-open $500 million dollar, theme park, called Glacier World, owned by a global development company—a place where tourists can enjoy all the wonders of Alaska and the Arctic in one location. This spectacular park, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and rugged glaciers, will have a recreated gold rush town, glittering attractions, and exhibits of Alaska’s predators, including huge brown bears, wolves, and wolverines—all in their natural habitats. But Glacier World has a dark side where people keep dying under unexplained circumstances. On its opening day, Earl and his friends muster their courage and pose as tourists to sneak into the theme park in an attempt to gather evidence against the suspected high seas pirates. But things go wrong and when trying to get out, they are exposed to danger and death at every turn as they are pursued by more than one kind of Glacier World killer, one desperate and one just hungry.
The dark green forest, touched with an early frost and reflecting in the glassy, gray surface of the water, gave the inlet a serene setting. While shrouded in low-hanging clouds, rugged, snow-covered mountains ringed the inlet. On the easterly side, several peaks of the Chilkat Range rose over five thousand feet. There were hanging valleys, sheer granite cliffs, and ice fields—places no one in their right mind would venture. It was a true wilderness with no roads or easy access.
A group of black scoters and marbled murrelets repeatedly dove and bobbed back to the surface in front of Raz’s skiff—the small diver ducks easily avoiding the bow as it cut through the frigid water. Near the mouth of the river, Raz could see the light frost on the beach and marsh grass. Below the beach, the rusty brown, slick kelp, and bone-white, barnacle-covered rocks of a broad tide flat were being quickly inundated by the rising tide.
He turned his boat toward the shoreline short of the river mouth where the water would remain deeper. Here the exposed beach was narrow and rocky and jutted up to a low bank, beyond which was a secondary-growth forest of alder and spruce. Raz shut off the engine and let the boat drift into the shallows. The silence of the place engulfed him. When the metal hull scrunched on the barnacle-covered rocks, he carefully stepped over the side and pulled a long line with him to tie to a branch of a tree that had fallen onto the beach. He grabbed one of his sacks of traps, stuffed it into a backpack, then picked up his shotgun and started to trek up the beach towards the flats. The brown kelp popped quietly as the small heads were crushed under his knee-high black rubber boots.
The blaze on a tree trunk among the thick line of trees above the bank caught his eye and he smiled as he turned towards it. The mark was old, made by his father years ago. It marked the path to the family trapline along a small stream that lay hidden in the forest. Raz looked around him, took a moment to sling the shotgun over his shoulder, and then, grabbing several roots with his free hands, climbed up the low bank. At the top of the bank, he was careful not to grab the yellow, woody branches of devil’s club plants that partially blocked his route. The branches, covered with nasty thorns, left painful wounds.
The silence of the inlet was replaced by the welcoming sounds in the forest beyond the beach. In the deep woods, two ravens repeatedly called to each other as if they were announcing his arrival. A squirrel chattered from a nest above his head. A belted kingfisher chirped as it flew from its hidden perch and swooped over the water, only to land on a protruding dead tree further up the beach. Raz shifted the knapsack into a comfortable position and struck out for the family trap line. It followed a creek that entered the river at the end of the bay and began a small waterfall about a mile or so from the beach. He planned to set out twenty traps where there were signs of small mammal crossings.
As he approached the stream and his first trap location, Raz noticed that the surrounding woods had turned dead quiet. The friendly sounds were gone and an uneasy feeling crept up his spine. The dense Alaskan forest always made him uncomfortable with its thick undergrowth, moss-covered tree stumps, and lack of sunlight. But today was different. The silence could mean there was a bear or other predator close by, maybe along the stream. He let the uneasy feeling pass and was approaching his first trap location when he heard a distinct sound, like a lone bird chirping. It was coming from an area of thick brush just beyond the creek. The single chirp changed to an angry cough which was joined by several more sources. An even louder caterwaul scream came from farther up the stream to his left.
Raz’s uneasiness changed to panic as he recognized the sounds—land otters.
The sounds grew louder and louder in his ears—‘hah, hiss, hah.’
He quickly shucked his knapsack, turned, and fled back the way he came. The beach and his boat—there he would be safe. The angry sounds followed him as if unseen forms gave chase, grabbing at his clothes. Branches of devil’s club slapped at his arms and legs like creatures trying to entrap him. He stumbled in the black muck of a patch of skunk cabbage, dropping his shotgun. One of his boots was sucked off as he struggled to rise. Ahead of him through an opening in the trees, he saw the bay and the hull of a boat—only to realize it was not his own. This boat was icy blue in color. Startled, he tripped on a root and took a tumble down the bank onto the beach. Raz felt a sharp pain above his right eye as he lost consciousness. The last things he remembered were the salty taste of the kelp against his face and the chill of the rising tidewater that soaked into his clothes.
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Glacier World is an exciting, page-turner story that includes a combination of Native American characters, legends, a unique setting, and a mysterious Alaskan tourist destination that will intrigue readers of all ages for a compelling read.
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Fredrick Cooper was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and lived in Alaska for many years. Before obtaining a doctorate in civil engineering and pursuing a professional career, he worked as a road surveyor, longshoreman, commercial fisherman, cannery worker, and even as a technician and news anchor for a cable television station in a small community in Alaska. He is of Coastal Salish and Lower Chehalis Band descent and is enrolled with a Northwest Indian Tribe. In addition to his second career in writing fiction, he is a master woodcarver, specializing in Native American artifacts such as canoe paddles and ceremonial items. He is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and the Willamette Writers and his novels have received several awards. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, and is working on another story.
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Author website: https://www.fredrickcooperauthor.com