cover image Nuking Alaska

Nuking Alaska

Peter Dunlap-Shohl. Graphic Mundi, $19.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-63779-047-2

Dunlap-Shohl (My Degeneration: A Journey Through Parkinson’s) delivers an unsettling if bemused account of Alaska’s precarious place in the nuclear arms race. Siren towers studded the Anchorage skyline during the author’s childhood in the 1950s and ’60s, reminders of the hazards of U.S.-Soviet tensions. More perplexing was the patrolled compound—likened to a “top-secret lair of an evil genius from a James Bond movie”—that housed nuclear-armed Nike Hercules missiles, deterrents to aerial attack. While the anticipated Soviet bombers never materialized, atomic catastrophe loomed nevertheless, from uranium leaks following a 1964 earthquake to nuke tests on the island of Amchitka. Harebrained political maneuvers threatened the state as well, such as a federal proposal to carve a harbor into the state’s northern coast using nuclear blasts. The folksy reportage meanders at times, but each narrative dogleg introduces another confounding close call. Dunlap-Shohl’s twining, jittery cartooning (reminiscent of Jules Feiffer in places) underscores the galling absurdity of his childhood environs. This eye-opening chronicle of the domestic perils of the Cold War will resonate for any reader apprehensive of nuclear weapons. (June)