The harrowing true story of two friends surviving a fishing vessel’s near capsizing en route to Seattle — among the first books published under WSU’s new Basalt Books label — has landed on the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s bestsellers list.
“Nightmare on the Scottie: The Maiden Voyage of a Doomed King Crabber,” is the first work published by Basalt Books to make the regional booksellers association’s list. The book climbed to No. 13 among paperback nonfiction books on the Dec. 25 bestsellers list, placing it among works from well-known authors like David Sedaris and Mary Roach.
“Caryn Lawton from WSU Press contacted me just before Christmas and it was the best gift I’ve ever received,” Steve Orsini, author of “Nightmare on the Scottie,” said. “It’s deeply gratifying to see my book on a bestsellers list alongside some of the best storytellers writing today.”
The book tells the true story of Orsini and his friend Jack’s venture from Mobile, Alabama, to the Pacific Northwest aboard a new king crabber in 1970. Shortly after taking to the sea, the four-person crew of the king crabber endured a storm with winds between 50 and 70 knots. Before the crew could reach the Panama Canal their vessel was hit by a rogue wave off the coast of Honduras. The wave laid the boat on its side, though to the crew’s relief it did eventually right itself and they made it safely to port.
Orsini took copious notes about the adventure, but with other priorities arising, the story ended up in a drawer. After retirement, Orsini went back to his notes, did considerable rewriting and sought out a publisher for the book. He found one in WSU Press and its Basalt Books division, which in publishing circles is known as an imprint and was launched last year as a new general-interest arm of the university press.
The success of “Nightmare on the Scottie” demonstrates that first-time authors working with university presses can achieve recognition alongside commercially well-known authors and publishers, Linda Bathgate, assistant director of WSU Press and its editor-in-chief, said.
“Seeing Basalt Books listed alongside Random House, Penguin, and Harper Perennial confirms that, even though we are a small press, we can compete on producing first-rate content,” Bathgate said.
It was the desire to publish books like Orsini’s debut that initially compelled WSU Press staff to launch a general-interest imprint.
“I am extremely pleased to see that others agree it is an exciting and worthwhile read,” Bathgate said. “It does set a high bar for future titles, but I am looking forward to finding and publishing the next bestseller.”
Orsini is currently working on his second book, which will explore the life of Felice Orsini, a relative who attempted to assassinate Napoleon III in 1858 on behalf of the cause to reunify a then-divided Italy.