“Writing the Northwest: A Reporter Looks Back”
WSU Press 2017
Reviewed by Irene Torres, KP News
Being at the right place at the right time seems to be a theme in this homey memoir of Hill Williams, veteran Northwest reporter.
From Williams’ stories of growing up in small town Washington in the 1930s to his witnessing major world events through the 1990s as a science writer for The Seattle Times to his visit to the People’s Republic of China, he was there and he wrote about it.
In the book, Williams recalls the wheat fields and sagebrush of Eastern Washington and a time before The Dalles dam floodwaters covered Celilo Falls when salmon could be bought for 25 cents. He remembers his early years living as a bachelor in boarding houses on Queen Anne in Seattle. He remembers interviewing Harry Truman before he was buried in the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.
Williams visited Pacific atolls and assessed the fallout from nuclear testing there and documented watching an atomic bomb blast in Nevada in 1952. He wrote of the Columbia Basin irrigation project and the early days of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. He admits that he learned geology and science on the job, in a time before computers placed the world at our fingertips. He weaves in details of his travels as he reminisces about his life as a journalist in this, his third book by WSU Press.
Williams’ style is clear, simple and straightforward—befitting a journalist of his years and experience. His book is more a recording of his personal recollections than documentation of history from a journalistic perspective.
Being from the same hometown (Pasco), some of his references to that part of the state brought a sense of nostalgia to me, as it will to anyone familiar with the newspaper writing style of a bygone era.