Sydney Duncombe was one of the most influential professors at the University of Idaho, shaping a generation of Idaho leaders — governors, mayors, senators — with his unforgettable instruction of how Idaho and its government really work.
What few knew was that Duncombe also channeled his knowledge and skills into a series of thriller novels about Idaho. Those novels were recently released by Ridenbaugh Press.
“Only his immediate family and a few friends he allowed to read manuscripts knew he had turned to novel and mystery writing in his retirement years and only a few copies were printed,” said publisher Randy Stapilus.
The books, which fell out of print after Duncombe died in 2004, started to come to light when columnist and author Chris Carlson encountered Duncombe’s first novel, “The Unlikely Candidate.” Carlson contacted Duncombe’s daughter, Mary Haley, now living in Sandpoint, who in August provided two other manuscripts written by her father, “Freedom County” and “Blizzard.”
Haley said that all royalties to the family will be directed to funding the Syd Duncombe scholarship in political science.
Duncombe began teaching courses in political science and public administration at U of I in 1962 and retired in 1987. Many of Idaho’s political leaders in recent decades took classes from him.
Each book has a short forward by Haley and a new forward by either a former student of Duncombe’s or someone he influenced.
Dirk Kempthorne, former Idaho governor, U.S. senator and secretary of the interior, wrote the forward to “The Unlikely Candidate.” David Leroy, former Idaho attorney general and lieutenant governor, wrote the forward to “Freedom County.” Rod Gramer, a long-time Idaho journalist and president and CEO of Idaho Business for Education, wrote the forward to “Blizzard.”
More information about Duncombe and the books is available at ridenbaughpress.com/sydduncombe. Books may be ordered there as well.