The Unlikely Candidate. By Sydney Duncombe. 1999, 2016. 280 pages. ISBN-13 978-0945648376. Price $15.95
Blizzard in August. By Sydney Duncombe. 1999, 2016. 229 pages. ISBN-13 978-0945648383. Price $15.95
Freedom County. By Sydney Duncombe. 1999, 2016. 260 pages. ISBN-13 978-0945648390. Price $15.95
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Sydney Duncombe was one of those “legendary” professors, the kind students never forget, not even decades later. He happened to be more than that. In the generation of time he taught at the University of Idaho, he deeply influenced a generation of Idaho students.
And that was important because many of those students went on to become a generation of leaders in Idaho. The forewords in these books by Syd Duncombe were happily contributed by Dirk Kempthorne, who went on to become mayor of Boise, governor of and senator from Idaho, and secretary of the Interior; David Leroy, who became an Ada County prosecutor, state attorney general and lieutenant governor; and Rod Gramer, a leading journalist and more recently a top education advocate in the state.
Syd Duncombe’s impact on Idaho was large, and his understanding of it was just as deep. His best-known classroom tactic would involve bringing in a collection of hats, each representing various groups of people, and then skillfully speaking on behalf of each of them.
All of that early training no doubt contributed to the mix when Duncombe say down to write his novels, three of which are represented here. His first, The Unlikely Candidate/em>, came closest to parts of his professional career (notably his stint as state budget director). His second, Blizzard in August/em>, emerged from his love of Idaho’s backcountry. His third, Freedom County, was a cautionary (and, it turns out, prescient) tale about what might happen in Idaho.
All are written as thrillers, as popular novels. They are no stiffly academic stories; but then, Duncombe was not a stiff academic. The core of his teaching and his art was an unnderstanding of people and their society, and that understanding is on full display in these titles.