For anyone who has ever dreamed of experiencing the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race or learning about the annual event’s colorful history over the past quarter century, Lew Freedman’s new book, Yukon Quest – The Story of the World’s Toughest Sled Dog Race, puts readers on the runners and along the trail without any risk of frostbite.Freedman is no stranger to writing about sled dog sports. He has penned several mushing-related books, including the widely popular Iditarod Classics and its sequel More Iditarod Classics, in addition to having written and co-written several biographies about numerous well-known mushers including Joe Redington, Dee Dee Jonrowe, Dick Mackey and George Attla. Freedman has also covered major events such as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race as the former sports editor of the Anchorage Daily News, which he said is the reason it’s taken him this long to put out a book about the Yukon Quest, which annually alternates direction between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse Yukon Territory.“During my 17 years in Alaska I was always intrigued by the Yukon Quest and wanted to write more about the race since I think it is such a significant event in the sport,” he said. “However, I was working for the Anchorage Daily News where the emphasis was on the Iditarod, so I just never had as much time to write about the Quest as I had hoped.”In 2009, Freedman made the time, and followed the race from start to finish, recording firsthand accounts and interviewing many mushers before the race, at checkpoints along the way and at the finish line. This information is spliced through the book, but Freedman didn’t want to limit himself to only writing about one year’s race. He wanted to cover the event from its inception up through the 2009 running. “Although there had been some good books about the Quest, there also seemed to be an opportunity to write more about the history of the event year by year,” he said. “So what I hoped to do was tell a good story, take readers through one year’s event as it unfolded, and highlight the fun and interesting developments and personalities from previous races.”Freedman starts with Sonny Linder’s finish in 1984 that shattered the naysayer’s notions that the Quest couldn’t be done due to the logistics of so few checkpoints, elements such as the minus 50 degree cold, 17 hours of darkness, and unusual rules such as racers could only use one sled. From there he chronologically covers each year’s race and champion with at least one chapter, moving all the way to the most recent victors, including Hans Gatt and his record-setting three victories in a row (2002-2004), Lance Mackey, who quickly broke Gatt’s already astounding accomplishment with four wins in a row (2005-2008), and Sebastian Schnuelle’s 2009 victory that took many by surprise.Through his interviews Freedman shows what is actually going on in the minds of the winners, such as in his interview with Frank Turner who confessed that after winning the 1995 race, “I learned, most importantly, that you’ve got to believe in yourself, and you’ve got to believe in your team absolutely.” Through gems like these, we get rare glimpses of the champions self image, self esteem and their thought processes during the race that just as much separated them from those behind them at the finish line, as the dogs they are driving. However, Freeman has covered enough sled dog sports to know that anyone who mushes a dog team 1,000 miles is deserving of respect, and he gives credit where credit is due with a chapter about several of the red lantern recipients. As is a classic style of Freedman, throughout the book he also maintained his flair for the occasional tongue-in-cheek story or quote that still fits within the context of the broader story, such as using the quote, “We’ll leave the light on for you,” made famous by Tom Bodett of the Motel 6 commercials, to lead into this chapter.“I think dog mushing fans, certainly including Iditarod fans, would enjoy this book,” Freedman said. “A lot of Iditarod mushers have expressed the desire to do the Quest once during their career. Some have made it; some have not been able to tear themselves away from the Iditarod for a year and don’t feel they can do both 1,000-mile races in the same season even though Lance Mackey has proven it hasn’t harmed his chances to win both. So there definitely is a lot to enjoy in this book for mushing fans and mushers who like a good story and perhaps wish they were closer to the Quest. It might give them a nudge to either try the race, if they are mushers, or to follow it more closely if they are fans.” This book is by far one of Freedman’s best works and through his creative imagery and compelling story telling, he sucks the reader in and makes them feel as much in the moment and a part of the action as the musher experiencing the adventures. It is a strong addition to the reference and entertainment books out there about the Yukon Quest, but that it not to say it is without weaknesses. The book had a few minor editorial errors that were hard to miss, such as listing the mileage between Braeburn and Carmacks as seven miles in the distance chart before the first chapter, rather than the correct distance of 77 miles. Freedman also accidentally used the same Jack London quote to lead into both Chapter 11 and 16. Still, these discrepancies were few and far between, and should not detract anyone from giving this book read. It, like any long distance race, may have a few tiny glitches, but the overall experience is still well worth taking. It is a good read about a grand adventure.”Yukon Quest: The Story of the World’s Toughest Sled Dog Race,” by Lew Freedman. Published in April 2010 by Epicenter Press. 5.5″ x 8.5″, 224 pages, b/w photos, map, appendix. ISBN 978-1-935347-05-7. $14.95.


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