Local Reads: Books Based in Tacoma

You'll spot several Tacoma-esque references throughout Joshua Swainston's "Tacoma Pill Junkies." Photo courtesy of Poetic Spectre Imaging.


By Jackie Fender

"King of Methlehem" readers are in for a thrill with this fourth novel from Tacoma Prosecutor, Mark Lindquist.
“The King of Methlehem” readers are in for a thrill with this fourth novel from Tacoma Prosecutor, Mark Lindquist.

The autumn season brings forth daydreams of wardrobe transitions to hats, scarves and boots, pumpkin flavored everything and crisp cool morning walks surrounded by orange and yellow leaves. For lovers of all that’s literary, it’s also prime time for bookish fun like curling up with a good book beside the fire, a cup of hot tea by your side. With this in mind, I got to thinking of books set in Tacoma. There are a plethora of novels set in larger, recognizable locales but this list is all about the City of Destiny. Here are just a few stories you’ll run across familiar street names and landmarks while reading:

The King of Methlehem by Mark Lindquist
For his fourth novel, Tacoma Prosecutor, Mark Lindquist, weaves a thriller so gritty and accurate at times it could be an embellished news story. “Tacoma Detective Wyatt James is dead set on putting an end to the operation of a shadowy figure who uses the alias Howard Schultz (after the Starbucks mogul), who has moved to establish himself as the preeminent meth dealer in the PNW….James’s obsession with his white whale intensifies, leading to a tragic conclusion.” Alas, it’s only fiction penned from a man familiar with Tacoma’s underbelly and peppered with a sharp wit and humor that can be found in Lindquist’s previous novels.

Tacoma author Joshua Swainston provides his readers with a diverse selection of works, including his novel, "Tacoma Pill Junkies."
Tacoma author Joshua Swainston provides his readers with a diverse selection of works, including his novel, “Tacoma Pill Junkies.”

Tacoma Pill Junkies by Joshua Swainston
Swainston has a diverse selection of works available for your reading pleasure here in the South Sound, including short stories that can be found on local literary site Creative Colloquy among others and historically accurate pieces about Tacoma from the Murray Morgan Bridge, to our rich history in brews and hops and Ivan the Gorilla in issues of local rag, Weekly Volcano (also available online). His first novel, Tacoma Pill Junkies, is a crime fiction-murder mystery of sorts that connects the lives of a mall worker, pill popping custodian, and a rat faced man in a story that portrays a mix of excellent storytelling, dark humor and Tacoma staples like the Tacoma Mall and Magoo’s.

Head Shot by Burl Barer
Penned by an Edgar Award (a prestigious title awarded to those in the mystery genre) winning author and crime expert, Burl Barer, Head Shot is a true crime tale set in the 80s. It is gripping, tragic and horrifying at times when informing of a trio of murderers that once resided in and terrorized Tacoma. Barer has been proclaimed one of the best true crime novelist of our time. So, for those who devour the genre, this is a good one to pick up.

"Dune" author, Frank Herbert, once lived in Tacoma.
“Dune” author, Frank Herbert, once lived in Tacoma.

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic
This story, narrated by Bostic, is a simple yet poignant tale about Austin Parker, a teen sick and dying, and looking to connect with those who have touched his short life. He jumps in the car with his best friend, and not so secret crush, Kaylee, and they head out on this journey to make amends before Austin passes away. It’s an easy read that fits in the YA genre and makes many mentions of Tacoma staples throughout.

Bonus: Dune by Frank Herbert
Yes, Dune, the novel about an interstellar empire’s power struggle that inspired an early 80s sci-fi movie adaptation (you know, the one with music artist Sting in it?), has connections to Tacoma. While it’s not technically set in Tacoma, author Frank Herbert once resided in Tacoma and it is said that Dune’s themes of environmental conservation and its noxious ambiance was inspired by Tacoma’s polluted air, caused by the old smelter.



Cover photo courtesy of Poetic Spectre Imaging.



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