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William Dietrich
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William Dietrich is the author of twelve novels, including the most recent Ethan Gage Adventures, NAPOLEON’S PYRAMIDS, THE ROSETTA KEY, THE DAKOTA CIPHER, THE BARBARY PIRATES, THE EMERALD STORM, and the upcoming THE BARBED CROWN. An award-winning journalist and naturalist, he shared a Pulitzer for coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and was one of the first reporters to the scene of that story. He also covered the eruption of Mount St. Helens, losing a photographer friend in that disaster. He has written five book of Northwest environmental history, and is a winner of the PNBA Award for non-fiction. He taught environmental journalism at Western Washington University and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He lives in Washington State. His website is

Entries by William Dietrich

Napoleon and the Seahawks

(0) Comments | Posted January 19, 2015 | 4:57 PM

Napoleon Bonaparte has a lot to say about Sunday's improbable NFC Seahawk victory over the Green Bay Packers that sent Seattle to its second consecutive Super Bowl.

As in, "If courage is the first characteristic of the soldier, perseverance is the second." My home team offense stunk for 55 minutes...

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Congress Imitates Cable

(0) Comments | Posted October 1, 2013 | 8:26 AM

What's wrong with this story?

No heroes.

I'm referring first to Congress, where legislative leaders seem to shrink in stature by the day, unable to act, unable to articulate, and unable to cooperate. The first government shutdown in seventeen years is the inevitable conclusion of myopic ambition, intellectual paralysis, and...

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Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post

(1) Comments | Posted August 7, 2013 | 3:08 PM

When the web revolution got rolling, the communication technology seemed so mysteriously invisible that comedians joked about "finding" the Internet. Where was this new thing upending the economy?

Well, I've spotted it, in the form of Amazon office buildings towering over the once-dominant headquarters of my old employer, the Seattle...

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Napoleon's Ruthless Career Advice

(3) Comments | Posted July 29, 2013 | 12:21 PM

Few have risen as high and fallen as hard as Napoleon Bonaparte, who could have written a good book of cutthroat career advice. I've been trying to summarize his philosophy, good and bad, for a class I'm planning to teach.

Here's what he might tell a business school.

By the...

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The Writer's Odds of Success

(7) Comments | Posted March 4, 2013 | 12:26 PM

Thriller author James Patterson made $94 million in 2012, according to Forbes. He's one of 145,900 American "writers and authors" counted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a quarter of them part-time, two-thirds of them self-employed, and with median earnings of $55,420. ("Median" means half earned more than that, and...

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And the Oscar Goes to... Story

(6) Comments | Posted February 23, 2013 | 11:57 AM

It's Oscar weekend, and in the desperate journalistic hunt for meaning in self-promoting spectacles -- the Academy Awards, the Superbowl, political conventions -- best-picture nominees have been criticized for straying from the truth.

Lincoln has a Connecticut congressman (falsely) voting against the amendment to end slavery. (First Hurricane Sandy, then...

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Napoleon and the Pope

(0) Comments | Posted February 12, 2013 | 11:12 AM

Napoleon Bonaparte would be at home in today's relatively irreligious age. A recent poll showed nearly 20 percent of Americans report no religion, up from 8 percent in 1990. In France the percentage declaring no religion is 48, in the UK 50. Even in...

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Napoleon and the Super Bowl

(2) Comments | Posted February 2, 2013 | 12:39 PM

Napoleon Bonaparte wasn't much of a couch potato, but he probably would have watched the Superbowl. Football is our sport closest to early 19th century war.

There was more clarity to conflict then than today's terrorism-and-guerilla tactics. The Ravens and 49ers will line up at scrimmage like the French...

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An Unknown Hero Named Dietrich

(0) Comments | Posted December 3, 2012 | 2:11 PM

"What's in a name?" Juliet tells Romeo, insisting their differing surnames should not forbid their love. "That which we call a rose would by any other name smell as sweet."

True, but names are powerful in helping define who we are. Now, just in time for the movie of The...

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Napoleonic War Versus the Afghanistan Grind

(1) Comments | Posted March 21, 2012 | 11:20 AM

My Ethan Gage novels take place during the Napoleonic Wars. Did combat of that time produce Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? And was it bad enough that it could it be blamed for killings like the deaths of 16 civilians in Afghanistan allegedly committed by Army Sgt. Robert Bales?

In large...

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Put the Story in History

(15) Comments | Posted June 29, 2011 | 5:29 PM

People learn through stories. Jesus told parables. Abraham Lincoln charmed his way with humorous tales. Ronald Reagan enthralled audiences with anecdotes he kept on 3-by-5 cards.

Too many history textbook writers don't understand this, and the result is abysmal historical memory by many Americans. Most historians can't write,...

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Truth vs. Embellishment

(7) Comments | Posted April 20, 2011 | 3:32 PM

Here's an idea: let's make memoirs true and put the made-up stuff in fiction.

Ain't gonna happen. Too much money in lying. And literary bigwigs think it's sorta okay.

This grumpy assessment is prompted by "Three Cups of Deceit," Jon Krakauer's eviscerating take-down of Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea,...

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Ben Franklin and Libya

(1) Comments | Posted March 24, 2011 | 3:36 PM

It has been 70 years since the U.S. Congress declared war on anyone, and the United States presently finds itself in at least 3.2 wars: one in Iraq we've largely ceased hearing about, a grinding one in Afghanistan, an air campaign in Libya, and naval patrols against Somalian pirates.


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100 Thriller Must Reads

(3) Comments | Posted July 13, 2010 | 12:57 PM

By day I'm a mild-mannered former newspaper reporter and college professor. By night I'm a thriller writer, which no doubt bewilders a colleague who christened me, with some justification, as "the world's most boring man."

Golly, do I have company.

I just returned from my third pilgrimage...

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A Medieval Solution for a Medieval Screw-up

(4) Comments | Posted June 8, 2010 | 1:55 PM

One definition of insanity is to make the same mistakes over and over again and expect a different result. By that criteria, BP is crazy.

But also normal. The oil company's performance during the Gulf oil spill has been so reminiscent of Exxon's in the Prince William...

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Exxon Lessons for the BP Spill

(31) Comments | Posted May 1, 2010 | 2:50 PM

The question after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was not if another catastrophic spill would hit the United States, but when.

Now we know. Unless BP's mile-deep gusher can be capped or shut off, it may exceed in volume and damage the 11 million gallon spill that occurred in...

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True vs. True

(0) Comments | Posted April 12, 2010 | 10:41 AM

When I give presentations on my novels, I'm often asked two questions:

"When will it be a movie?" When snowballs persist in hell, apparently.

And, "How does it feel to go from writing non-fiction and journalism to fiction?"

I was a...

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The Bad Good Fridays

(0) Comments | Posted April 7, 2010 | 10:00 AM

Tragedy struck my hometown of Anacortes, WA, this latest Good Friday when an explosion at the Tesoro Refinery just after midnight killed five workers and left two more in critical condition. The timing struck a chord because it was also after midnight on Good Friday, March 24, 1989, when the...

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Pirate Parallels

(2) Comments | Posted April 2, 2010 | 4:50 PM

News flash: Cocky Muslim pirates prey on merchantmen from small boats and ships. Crews and cargoes are held for ransom. Powerful warships are ill-suited to intercept elusive raiders. A shore sanctuary for piracy is frustratingly immune.

No, this news isn't just about 21st Century Somalia. The same scenario was...

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