Destination Astoria

Odyssey to the Pacific

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
438 Pages
Reviewed on 11/30/2014
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Author Biography

Brian D. Ratty is a retired media executive, publisher and graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography. He and his wife, Tess, live on the north Oregon Coast, where he writes and photographs that rugged and majestic region. Over the past thirty five years, he has traveled the vast wilderness of the Pacific Coast in search of images and stories that reflect the spirit and splendor of those spectacular lands. Brian is an award-winning historical fiction author of four novels and the owner of Sunset Lake Publishing. He is currently writing his fifth novel, which he hopes to release 2016.
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Raanan Geberer for Readers' Favorite

Destination Astoria by Brian D. Ratty tells the story of Dutch Blackwell, trapper, trader and hunter, who’s about as rough as they come. Dutch signs on as part of an expedition sent by John Jacob Astor, the richest man in America, in 1810 to establish a trading post in Oregon. When Dutch, due to the chicanery of a rival fur company, misses his connection in St. Louis, he thinks he’ll have to go westward on the trail alone. But he soon teams up with a friendly mountain man who knows the frontier like the back of his hand. They then join up with Dutch’s long-lost uncle, and later meet a Bible-thumping Cherokee preacher and the preacher’s African-American female slave. All the while, Dutch keeps thinking about a girl he met back East. Dutch Blackwell is part white, part Indian, and 100 percent American.

In Destination Astoria, Brian D. Ratty brings alive the little-known, troubled period after the American Revolution, but just before the War of 1812. His descriptions, whether of a waterfront dive in Boston, a U.S. Army stockade in the Louisiana Territory, or a flatboat on the Ohio River all ring true. Ratty shows us the unusual mix of people one found west of the Appalachians in those days, from an Amish family to treacherous “river pirates” to frontiersmen. He demonstrates how each Indian tribe had its own unique culture. He also shows us both the good in people – how Jack, the mountain man, is willing to help Dutch – and the bad – Jack’s disparagement of Indians and African-Americans. All in all, Brian D. Ratty is a master storyteller, and he makes the West of that long-ago era come alive.

Stephanie Smith

Destination Astoria by Brian Ratty covers the colorful period when the West was opened by fur trappers and the companies that bought from them. Specifically, it covers two events: the Astor expedition to lock a monopoly on the United States fur trade in the interior and Pacific, and the adventures of a young trapper approached by Astor to participate in this event. The young trapper crosses what would become the Oregon trail with various companions and his dog, King. The book is about the arduous journey and the dangers posed during it. The trapper, Dutch, was born on the Pacific coast and is using this as an excuse to go home. Others make the journey for money or fame.

Destination Astoria was very interesting. At 437 pages, it was also very long. Although interesting throughout, Ratty does make periodic diversions into the history of the times that break into the story. These diversions are interesting, but interrupt the momentum of the story. They also lengthen the book. Nonetheless, the book was well written and historically correct. I found no anachronisms in it. I rooted for the young hero and hoped he made it throughout the book. Readers of both historical fiction and adventure in the vein of Jack London's Call of the Wild will enjoy this book. It has much the same raw characters and beauty as London's book.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Destination Astoria by Brian D. Ratty is a tale of great tragedy and triumph. It is 1860, in a tavern in Astoria, Oregon. Sitting among the patrons, Dutch (Blackwell) Clarke captivates his audience with the stories of his frontier life. This is his story of stories. Dutch is a half breed, born and raised in the Indian culture of the Pacific Northwest. After the tragic death of his parents, Dutch becomes a trapper and a tracker. Cheated out of his wages, Dutch travel 350 miles to collect his earnings from the infamous John Astor. Astor reluctantly pays, and then offers Dutch a new five-year contract. Astor wants to expand his fur trade empire to the Columbia River. After obtaining his wages, Dutch winters in Boston with an old friend of his father’s and meets the love of his life, Mary. But alas, it is not meant to be, she is much too young. As soon as spring arrives, Dutch departs on a cross country expedition to the Columbia River. The trek soon proves to be the biggest challenge and greatest adventure of his life. Dutch and a small group of companions arrive in record time. While setting up the trading post, Dutch realizes his past drew him back, but it would be the future that would keep him on the shores of the Columbia River.

Brian D. Ratty pens an epic historical story in Destination Astoria. The adventurous plot is full of frontier hardships endured by strong characters. Figuratively written, the narrative is full of vivid descriptions and sensory images, especially regarding the geography of the journey. The language and the mannerisms of the time were easily heard and visualized within the dialogues. Distinctive nuggets of truth are woven within the conversations as well. I loved all of the different characters that crossed paths with the protagonist, thus revealing the varying settlers of early America. At the beginning of the chapters, Ratty sets the scene and prepares the reader for the upcoming events by including historical background information. At first this technique was distracting, but soon I found the data authenticated the plot’s action. The plot unfolds with peaks and valleys, much like the arduous journey of its characters. However, there were a few unforeseen climatic events that escalated the action, forging the way to a desirable end. In this well researched tale, Ratty includes the differences of the Indian nations, the hardships of the frontier, the expansion of the fur trade and famous cross country expeditions of the late 1700s and early 1800s. Brian D. Ratty’s love of history is held within each word of Destination Astoria.