A fiction writer is always looking for wonderful people in life to pattern characters after. As I researched Alaska where much of my new release, Cold Justice, is set, I found a wonderful character in Klondike Kate aka Kathleen Rockwell. While none of the characters in my novel were patterned after Kate, I think my main character had some of her spunk and determination.
Klondike Kate led a very interesting life. She lived in many states: Kansas, North Dakota, Washington, New York, and Oregon. But the state that really made her famous was Alaska.
Her heart must have yearned for adventure, for after trying to break into show business in New York, she decided to head north. At the time, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were making it difficult for miners and others to get to the Yukon to find gold. Kate was refused entry, but the story goes that she dressed up like a boy, jumped aboard a ship heading to the Yukon, and that was just the beginning of her life in Alaska.
Miners called her “The Flame of the Yukon.” She earned that name because of her flame dance. Wearing an elaborate, red-sequined dress with an enormous cape, she would start her dance. As the routine developed, she took off the cape (this is where it became really interesting). The cape was 200 yards of red chiffon attached to a cane. She’d twirl and leap with the cape making it look like flames were all around her. By the end of her dance, she’d dramatically drop to the floor, which probably looked as though she was consumed by fire. The miners loved it.
Kate’s dancing act was such a huge success that the miners called her Klondike Kate. She had many admirers. It was reported that Kate fell in love and married Alexander Pantages. But sadly one time upon returning home from a trip, she found Pantages had married someone else, and not only that, he took all of her money. But Kate pressed on.
When the gold rush died, she moved to Oregon. I found one web site that said later in life Kate married a miner name John Matson, though he remained in Alaska while she was in Oregon. I don’t know if they stayed together or not, but I’d like to think that Klondike Kate found her true love. She died in 1957. I’ve often wondered while she lived in Oregon if she missed the Yukon.
Beautiful Alaska was rich with history and breathtaking environment. While writing my novel, I knew that Regi Bernard and Samuel Tanner—the two main characters in my book—would find out who they really were in a place God’s hand had touched in so many different ways: the beautiful ocean and harbor villages, the northern lights, the snow-covered mountains, the Native Alaskan people, and the myths and legends that keep that area grounded and humble yet mystical.
Here’s a small excerpt from Cold Justice:
He stood among barren aspen trees, knee-high in winter snow—watching. Always watching. The binoculars were cold as he pressed them against his eyes. Freezing weather would neither impede him nor stop him from his mission.
He asked Raven to guide his every step. Raven helped his eyes to see and his ears to hear, but would he help him kill if he must before completing the task?
Justice must be served.
So where’s the romance? Don’t worry. The book opens on the eve of Regi and Samuel’s wedding day. After years of being apart they are finally going to have their happy-ever-after. However, that night Samuel is kidnapped. At first Regi thinks he’s run out on her, but as she checks his place she finds clues that lead her to believe he’s been kidnapped.
I think Regi’s take-charge attitude is something she has in common with Klondike Kate. The two of them would have been good friends.
I’d love to give one lucky person an opportunity to win a copy of Cold Justice on Petticoats and Pistols. To win please leave a comment telling me what you love about Alaska.