Cold Justice and Kathi Orom Peterson

Photo by Marc Reynolds

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.

To learn more about Cold Justice or my other books, please visit my website: or my blog .


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.


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28 thoughts on “Cold Justice and Kathi Orom Peterson”

  1. Hi Kathi! Welcome to P&P! Alaska is such an exciting setting, especially for a book with suspense as well as romance. Klondike Kate was a fascinating woman. She had to be tough as nails to survive, but I bet she had a tender side too.

  2. Welcome Kathi,,great post,ive never been to Alaska,but found your post very interesting,thanks for coming an sharing with us

  3. A fascinating book and post which I enjoyed greatly. What a great locale for this novel. thanks for introducing me to your book and writing.

  4. Hi, Kathi! I didn’t know anything about Klondike Kate, but I would love to have seen her flame dance.
    Having done an Alaska cruise a couple of years ago, I fell in love with the beautiful coastal scenery. As you know, my vagabond daughter is in Sitka now, keeping me up to date on her adventures.
    COLD JUSTICE is next in my To Be Read pile! Looking forward.

  5. Hi Kathi! Welcome to P&P. We’re thrilled to have you here. We hope you like it so much you’ll come back again. Klondike Kate must’ve been quite a woman. I’d love to have seen her flame dance. I’ll bet that got the men into a frenzy. I’ve always wanted to see Alaska but haven’t made it. I think it’s got to be one of the most awesome states. Pictures from there take my breath. And I love that show Ice Road Truckers that is filmed in Alaska. LOL

    Wishing you lots of success with Cold Justice. Hope the book does well. I love that mysterious cover with the bird swooping down for the kill.

  6. Alaska has vistas to explore which are majestic and special. Your book sounds compelling and memorable. Kate was certainly courageous and very strong.

  7. Unfortunately, I’ve never been but they say it’s America’s last frontier. I love reading about places that I don’t know a lot about. As to living there, I don’t think I’d care for the weather lol.

  8. Enjoyed reading the comments. When I visited Alaska, I was awed by the massiveness of it all-not only are the mountains big, they are massive (Mt McKinley). The animals are massive (the moose and the polar bear) and the events that happened there are massive in scope (the earthquake in Anchorage, the the finding of Gold). The friendliness of the people is massive too. I enjoyed visiting Chicken, Alaska and Denali Park. Gee, I liked it all. A very majestic place to visit.

  9. Anne,
    Alaska really is a great place to set a book. It’s the last great frontier, other than outer space, but that’s for a different readership. Hmm, I wonder . . . could there be outer space romantic westerners. Something to think about.:)

  10. Elizabeth:
    I’m so jealous that you were able to go and see the sights I’ve yearned to see with my own eyes. I’m sure your daughter has some amazing stories to share about that area. Sitka is rich with history. I hope you enjoy the book.

  11. Linda:
    Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here and to finally figure out how to post a comment. Talk about techno-challenged, that’s me.

    Klondike Kate’s flame dance must have been an amazing sight. I don’t know how she kept from getting tangled up in twenty feet of cloth. AND she must have been very strong to keep the fabric billowing in the air like flames. No wonder she fell to the ground as though consumed by fire.

    I’m a HUGE fan of Ice Road Truckers. Those guys are modern-day cowboys.

    Thanks for the compliment on my cover. As you know, authors usually have little choice about the cover of their books. I’ve been extremely lucky.

  12. Elle:
    You’re spot one, sista! The vistas of Alaska are breathtaking. But I also found the people who live there are as diverse and beautiful as their state. You have not only the transplants from the lower 48, but Native Alaskans, and Russians known as The Believers. Very interesting . . .

  13. Catslady:
    I don’t know as I’d like living there either. 50 below is a bit on the freeze-your-tears kind of weather. However, as a writer who loves to do nothing more than to bundle up to the computer while it’s snowing outside and write, I might get more novels done. 🙂 AND the fishing and hiking would be awesome. Something to think about.

  14. Joye:
    I’m so envious that you were able to see all those wonderful places. And you’re right, everything seems to be on a big scale. Seems everything in the West can be that way. I remember going to Montana with my sister. There was a sign on the side of the road warning about a hole. A hole in the road for me is like a pothole, but up there it was a crater. Maybe in the West big is a matter of context. The context of Alaska would be huge. 🙂

  15. Thank you for an interesting post. While reading about Kate, you get the feel and image of a time much like the old West. The fact that this was much more recent, I was in grade school in 1957, takes it out of the historical fiction category, at least for me. She sounds like an incredible woman who wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted and was always up for a challenge and adventure. I do hope she found happiness.

    Alaska is on our list to visit in the near future. We were planning to be there now, but changed plans. There is so much we want to see and explore, we decided to wait until retirement so we can spend several weeks traveling and exploring the area. We have friends who live there, in the summer (they have chosen Arizona for winter), and they have given us many good suggestions for travel and things to do and see. I look forward to going to Denali, driving about the interior, and taking the maritime highway as far as we can go. Every area has its own special beauty and Alaska, as the last American frontier, offers many a chance to simplify and start anew.

    Intriguing excerpt from COLD JUSTICE. I look forward to reading it. I hope it does well.

  16. Patricia:
    You may be right that Kate’s story isn’t in the old West. It just felt like it as I read about her adventures and all she had to contend with.

    I, too, look forward to exploring Alaska. Though, with all the research I’ve done I feel like I’ve been there. But oh, it would be so fantastic to see these sights for myself. I hope you get to go.

    I hope you enjoy Cold Justice. 🙂

  17. Estella:
    How fortune your friend was to have lived there for five years. I had a friend who lived there for a time. She said one night that she came out and it looked like you could reach out and touch the moon. Sounds awesome. And I’d love to see the Northern Lights from that vantage point. 🙂

  18. I personally have only been to Alaska once when I was ten years old. We were on our way home after living in Japan for 3 1/2 years. I remember all the snow on the ground and in the trees and we all bundled up only to have to take everything off as it was relatively warm.

    My nephew & his wife have gone to Alaska twice and took videos both times. The terrain, the wildlife and everything else is just so breathtaking! 🙂

    😀 Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  19. Fascinating post. Alaska has always been up there with Australia, for me. Will have to put that on my TBR list.
    Hope I’m not too late to get into the drawing.

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