Author Gore Vidal, who died on July 31, is best known as a stylish, urbane wordsmith who generally wrote about people and places most of us consider luxurious.
But it should also be remembered that he spend time as a crusty old sailor on ships in the Aleutians. Well, not that old - he was a teenager when he enlisted in the Army during World War II. It was then that he wrote his first novel, published shortly after the war, about a presumed murder in an Alaska port.
The New York Times obituary notes: "Mr. Vidal ... became first mate on a freight supply ship in the Aleutian Islands. He began work on 'Williwaw,' a novel set on a troopship and published in 1946 while Mr. Vidal was an associate editor at the publishing company E. P. Dutton, a job he soon gave up. Written in a pared-down, Hemingway-like style, 'Williwaw' (the title is a meteorological term for a sudden wind out of the mountains) won some admiring reviews but gave little clue to the kind of writer Mr. Vidal would become."
Vidal revisited "Williwaw" later in life, though he said the revisions were few and mostly technical, and had it republished.