Bob Durr's first book about his adventures in Alaska was published in 1999 ( Down in Bristol Bay: High Tides, Hangovers, and Harrowing Experiences on Alaska's Last Frontier ). In a sense, that book was prelude to this, because while it touched upon his reasons for undertaking the risky business of "proving up" as a commercial salmon fisherman, it didn't delve deeply into the underlying reasons why he wanted, ultimately, to leave the civilized world altogether.
The Coldman Cometh tells the whole story--the "family saga"--of how and why Bob, who was a tenured full professor of English at Syracuse University, resigned in 1968 from his comfortable position and with his wife and four kids journeyed north into the Alaska bush. It's a tale of adventure, of perils, hardships, trials, and triumphs involving close encounters with bears, charging moose, stormy waters, and--probably most dangerous of all--the severe subzero temperatures the Durrs came to call the "Coldman," he of the deadly embrace. The story of those tough, thrilling early years of settling in is told in vivid detail and living color, and with a good deal of humor as well.
"What is life for?" Bob asks. "To be safe and a little fat and own nice things? What about the Great Mystery, and what about the wolves?"
The Coldman Cometh is not only a memoir of an adventurous quest but an in-depth report of a radical experiment in alternative living. It's a beautiful--and harrowing--account of dropping out of the mainstream: of the smell of pine pitch and roar of a bull moose and the "whys" of the fabulous journey. Ultimately, it's a commentary on society that can only be given by a writer who has so nearly left it.