Paper pub. date
January 2004
ISBN 9780870710407 (paperback)
ISBN 9780870711008 (ebook)
6 x 9 inches, 224 pages.

To Build a Ship

Don Berry

In To Build a Ship, Don Berry explores the extent to which a man can betray himself and his morality for a dream or an obsession. It's the story of a handful of settlers who take up land in the fertile Tillamook Bay Valley in the early 1850s-defiant dreamers battling the wilderness. With impenetrable mountains at their backs and the open sea as their sole road to trade, they are suddenly isolated from the outside world when the only captain willing to enter their harbor dies. With the survival of their new settlement threatened, they decide to build their own schooner.

At first the challenge brings out the best in the men, but soon the tensions inherent in this monumental task engulf them. Obstacles accumulate and complications mount: a death, a murder trial, trouble with restive Indians, and finally a travesty of justice. Excitement, shock, and gripping drama mark this story of men pushed to the point of madness as they see the Morning Star of Tillamook slowly take shape on the wild Pacific shore.

Don Berry's three novels about the Oregon Territory — Trask, Moontrap, and To Build a Ship — are as rich and compelling today as when they were first published more than 40 years ago. The new OSU Press editions of these books include an introduction by Jeff Baker, book critic for The Oregonian.

About the author

Don Berry (1932–2001) considered himself a native Oregonian, despite the fact that he was born in Minnesota, with a lineage from Fox Indians. After attending Reed College, where his housemates included poet Gary Snyder, who shared his interest in Eastern metaphysics, Berry began a lifetime of pursuing his many passions: playing down-home blues and composing synthesizer music, sumi drawing and painting, sculpting in bronze, exploring theoretical mathematics, and writing for prize-winning films.

In addition to his three novels about the Oregon Territory (Trask, Moontrap, and To Build a Ship) published in the early 1960s, Berry wrote A Majority of Scoundrels, a history of the Rocky Mountain fur trade. An early Internet pioneer, he also created a remarkable body of literature that exists now only in cyberspace.

Read more about this author

"[Don Berry's novels] are all remarkable books. Historically well researched, accurate, precise to the details, marvelously evoked, and not gaudy or exaggerated in their invocation of fur trade and pioneer times… Don Berry's literary and cultural contributions… [make] him a pre-eminent figure in Northwest letters."

—Gary Snyder

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