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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Two Silver Valley Authors Bring Region’s History To Life

Bekka Rauve Staff writer

Authors Anne Seagraves and Jerry Dolph are in the business of saving voices.

Seagraves’ mission is to give new life to the stories of frontier women who have been overlooked by a century or more of history.

Dolph writes of hard-rock miners. He could write their stories for the rest of his life, he said, and “still there’d be more stories to be told.”

Both authors will be signing copies of their books from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday at Hastings Books in Coeur d’Alene.

“It disturbed me that the miner was never heard from,” said Dolph, a Silver Valley miner for 16 years. When a leg injury ended that career in 1988, someone suggested that he write about the mining life.

“That’s what started me. I knew it had to be done, or the stories would be lost,” he said.

Dolph’s book, “Fire in the Hole: The Untold Story of Hardrock Miners,” was released by Washington State University Press in December.

Seagraves stumbled on to her calling while doing research for a book about Lake Tahoe.

“I ran across the names of women who sounded so fascinating, but there was nothing about them,” she said.

Using sources ranging from historical societies to old-timers at the local bar, Seagraves began to compile stories that grew into a series of books about women of the frontier West.

Rights to the most recent, “Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West,” have been bought by Hollywood producer-director Frank Fischer, whose credits include the Patty Duke pilot, “A Wing and a Prayer.”

But for both Dolph and Seagraves, the way to success seemed far from obvious for a time.

“It felt like I kept bumping into walls. I couldn’t find anyone who could tell me how to get the voice of the miner out,” Dolph said.

His harrowing accounts of rock bursts and other adventures found a ready market in small-circulation magazines, but Dolph wasn’t satisfied. After a talk with “Northwest Journal” publisher Ivar Nelson, he managed to crack the trade journal market. It still wasn’t enough.

“I got to thinking maybe a book would work,” Dolph said. “I thought, WSU has a great football team - they must have a great press.”

He contacted editor Keith Petersen, who requested a sample of his writing. Then three chapters. Then an entire manuscript.

Dolph had never written a book before, but he assembled his articles in chronological order and worked from there. He said the process was “no big hoo-rah.”In the hands of WSU reviewers and its editorial review board, Dolph’s manuscript received a unanimous thumbs-up. He signed a book contract in August 1993.

Seagraves decided to bypass publishers altogether. “I knew better than to go to them. I wasn’t famous or infamous; neither were the people I wrote about. They were just remarkable women,” she said.

Because she owned a marketing firm, Seagraves felt well-equipped to handle a selfpublished book. Her first, “Women of the Sierra,” sold well, and, like its successors, never stopped selling. Her books are now handled by the four largest book wholesalers in the world.

Gem Guide, her Hollywood distributor, piqued the interest of several movie producers when it promoted “Soiled Doves” at a booksellers show. Seagraves received several offers and was wondering which way to jump when she got a call from Patty Duke.

“She said she’d heard I was confused. She recommended Frank Fischer, and he’s been wonderful,” Seagraves said. Fischer is now talking with two major networks about airing “Soiled Doves” as a movie of the week.