When the Tubbs Fire swept through Santa Rosa on October 8, 2017, Jon Humboldt Gates “lost everything at midnight on a Sunday.” He tells the tale in his new book, a volume of vignettes called Firestorm: A Personal Narrative from the Epicenter of a California Wildfire. Gates will sign copies at Eureka Books during Arts Alive, November 2, 2019 from 6 – 9 pm.
In describing his losses over email, he said “literary wise, that included the library, all my research records, book inventories, printing plates musical instruments and recordings.
Gates, a 5th generation Humboldt County native, is the author of two longtime local favorite local books. Falk’s Claim, a history of the once-bustling and now uninhabited logging town south of Eureka, and Night Crossings, true stories about people caught in the wild and unpredictable conditions on Humboldt Bay. The fire destroyed not only his backstock of the books but also the printing plates he used to make new copies.
Both books were in their 6th printings when the fire hit and still in demand by readers. In order to reconstruct the books for new editions, Gates had to buy a copy of each and send them to a specialist in Ohio who took them apart to create high quality reproductions for the new editions.
The two favorites are now back on the shelves, and with added imagery. The new edition of Falk’s Claim has new photographs that weren’t in the first edition, and Night Crossing has one new image, a reproduction of a painting. The text is unchanged.
Gates said bringing the two books back to print was “a bit of a Phoenix event but I felt those stories needed to be preserved.” He said the new book, Firestorm, was “more of a redemption work, from a state of chaos.”
“After all he has been through, and everything he has contributed to the literature of Humboldt County, we are so happy to host Jon at Eureka Books for Arts Alive,” said store manager Katie McCreary. She said the store’s Humboldt County section was incomplete without these star attractions while the new editions were being prepared. “We want this to be a celebration.”
To that end, San Francisco Bay Area jazz pianist Wayne Fettig will fill the 140-year-old storefront at 426 2nd Street with music for the night, while volunteers from Humboldt Baykeeper will be on-hand to pour wine for donation.