by Brian Weakland

Award-winning author Brian Lee Weakland focuses on the Allegheny River in the second book of his Rivers of Pittsburgh mystery trilogy. Woods on Fire, scheduled for release on September 1, borrows tales of the river, both true and fabled. Many of the tales were suggested by Weakland’s readers.

His successful debut novel, Tonight in the Rivers of Pittsburgh, was based on the Monongahela River, but many scenes were set in Northwest Pennsylvania and McKean County. When author Weakland toured the area last fall for book signings and the Kinzua Bridge Festival, readers offered personal stories about the Allegheny National Forest and river. Several of these stories were incorporated into Woods on Fire.

“One reader told me that he often visited the Kinzua State Park at night, not to see the bridge but to watch black bears,” Weakland said. “So a black bear, named Einstein, plays a central role in Woods on Fire.

“Another reader asked me whether I knew there was silver, millions of dollars worth, buried in the Kinzua Valley. I didn’t. So she sent me a videotape about a British captain burying Spanish silver in McKean County in 1812. Her story was so compelling that the silver treasure is key to the plot of Woods on Fire.

Weakland, a native of Altoona and of Seneca descent, also included the flooding of the Allegheny River in 1965 by Kinzua Dam. Woods on Fire recalls the resulting forced relocation of Pennsylvania’s Seneca Indians to New York State. Weakland said the novel’s account of Kinzua Dam’s effect on the Seneca Nation of Indians is sad, but accurate.

Woods on Fire continues the characters and story-line from Tonight in the Rivers of Pittsburgh. The final book of the trilogy, Zelienople Road, based on the Ohio River, is to be released in the summer of 2010.

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