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However, the pistol-spinning comes to an abrupt halt when Jane Deering, a young and sexy Hollywood starlet, drops by looking to invite Fargo to her home later that night to discuss business (and have sex). Fargo of course accepts, since the only thing he enjoys more than making money and shooting guys in the face is having sex with gorgeous women. Deering has a simple business proposition for Fargo - travel to Alaska and acquire confirmation that her estranged husband is dead. Deering is savvy enough to understand that Hollywood (even circa 1914) is just a meat grinder for talent: young, beautiful, naive people go in, and come out prematurely aged, washed-up and kicked out to pasture as the studios move on to the next big name. But Deering's husband was wealthy, and if she can find proof of his death somewhere in the wilds of the great white north, she will inherit his fortune. Fargo agrees to take on this assignment, although he is reluctant to bring Deering along with him, since she insists she's as tough and capable as any man.
What follows is a great action-adventure story set in the wild and unruly world of early 20th century Alaska. I was especially eager to read this particular novel because, as a native-born Alaskan myself, I was curious to see how Benteen (Haas) portrayed the territory and its people in these largely lawless, pre-statehood days. Overall, I wasn't disappointed. Even today, Alaska is a place for the independent of mind and spirit, for people who are self-reliant and take satisfaction from being in control of as much of their lives as one can be in the 21st century. But a hundred years ago, it really was one of the last North American frontiers, a place where the unwary could be killed by the savage winter cold or the teeth and claws of even more savage predators, by knife or gun or whiskey bottle or icy stream.
The extraordinarily dangerous environment is well-envisioned in this novel, but equally impressive is the amount of action and intrigue that takes place in the story. I won't give away any spoilers, except to say that Fargo and Deering stumble into a situation much more deadly than they'd ever imagined. There are a number of good fights in this book, from fists to knives to pistols and rifles, and of course Fargo's infamous double-barreled shotgun gets a good workout. There is a large battle at the end of the book that feels like something out of the battle for Berlin, 1945. In fact, the only criticism of the book I might have is that the final battle is a little TOO huge and bloody - but of course, that's just crazy talk.
If you've made it to Alaska Steel, you're no doubt a Fargo fan like myself, so I know I don't have to sell you on it, but rest assured, this is another excellent volume in what has quickly become one of my favorite action-adventure series. Pick it up, because you won't be disappointed.