Katmai is a volcano on the Alaskan Peninsula; its eruption on June 6, 1912, was ""one of the most violent explosions known to man"". This book is an account of that eruption, as it concerned the inhabitants of Kodiak Island, 100 miles away and directly in the path of the heavy clouds of volcanic ash. Mr. Erskine (White Water, an Alaskan adventure) was in Kodiak at the time, but he was only 14 months old. His retelling is based mainly on family records and other eye-witness accounts. The 60 hours of black night and the ten-foot drifts of ash descending upon the unsuspecting people, their pioneering fortitude and their providential evacuation by the U.S. revenue cutter Manning, then the rebuilding of their lives amid the far-reaching upheaval of nature provoked by this phenomenon--all this makes for an absorbing story, and the author presents it in swift and quite vivid, if often cliche-ridden, prose. The trouble lies not so much in his being a hometown boy or the son of one of the leading figures in his story, but rather in his inability to ignore these facts; which means, his characters are all rather too calmly courageous, too completely in control of everything, to be either wholly believable or as sympathetic as they might otherwise have been had more objectivity been exercised.