New book by Alaska author Tom Kizzia explores ghost town era of McCarthy

Author Tom Kizzia poses with copies of his latest book, Cold Mountain Path. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Pataky)

Alaska’s ghost towns have endless stories to tell, but much of their history gets lost over time.

In his latest book, “Cold Mountain Path,” Alaska author Tom Kizzia chronicles the ghost town era of McCarthy, the tiny community nestled in the Wrangell Mountains. It became available online and in bookstores starting Tuesday.

Appearing on “Talk of Alaska” on Tuesday, Kizzia said the new book builds off of research he did for his bestselling 2013 true crime book, “Pilgrim’s Wilderness.” That followed the story of Papa Pilgrim, who settled in McCarthy with his wife and 15 kids in the late 1990s.

This time, Kizzia focused on the people and stories that occupied the McCarthy area in the decades before the Pilgrim family arrived, and after the lucrative Kennecott Copper Mine shut down.

“The Kennecott Mines themselves were famous for being — where open pit copper mines are like 1% copper — this was 70% pure copper,” Kizzia said. “I felt like I was in a 70% pure Alaskana vein that I was mining my way through as a writer. It was just such a remarkable spot to write about.”

Kizzia first visited McCarthy as a crime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, covering the massacre of six locals by a man who later told authorities he was trying to protect Alaska’s pristine wilderness from resource development.

Kizzia’s “Cold Mountain Path” was published by Porphyry Press, a new micropress based out of McCarthy.

Jeremy Pataky started the remote press recently. He plans to keep it small, only publishing a couple of books a year. He said he’s excited to see the fruits of his labor hit the shelves this week.

“It does feel great. It has been a long time in the making and also just seeing all the current news about supply chain issues, especially in the book industry,” Pataky said. “So far, at least, it’s been pretty smooth sailing.”

Pataky said some of the proceeds from the book will go to the McCarthy-Kennicott Historical Museum.

Alaska Public Media

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