Can you update us on what you’ve been doing
over the past couple years? We hear there’s a new
Yes, the new book is called Disappointment River, and
it’s about Alexander Mackenzie, who led the first recorded
expedition across North America, twelve years before Lewis and
Clark. In the summer of 2016, I paddled a canoe to retrace one
of Mackenzie’s epic journeys, twelve hundred miles to the Arctic
Ocean. This book is a lot different than my previous work, and it
was nice to write about forgotten history rather than bombs and
There was an editorial by you in the New York Times
recently. What other periodicals have you been writing for
and on what topics?
Jim Dao, who runs the Times Opinion page, is actually from Kenmore.
He was following the Collins-McMurray congressional race, and asked
me to write about the results. Jim used to cover the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and so is a big supporter of veteran writers, for which I am
grateful. Before that, my last major magazine story was for WIRED, on the
weapons the Islamic State invented and used to conquer northern Iraq. I
spent two weeks in ISIS bomb-making facilities in Mosul and Tal Afar; it was
In early talks with Spree (as a subject, not a contributor),
you mentioned the difficulties of adjusting to nonmilitary life
and the aftermath of wartime service. Are these still issues?
My challenge in coming home, and this is true for many veterans, is
finding a sense of purpose, something that feels as big as the job you just
had. In war, everything is magnified, life and death, and finding a new job
that lives up to that standard is hard. I’m very fortunate that I’ve found it
twice, first as a writer, and now as a war crimes investigator at Amnesty
International. At Amnesty, I’m the weapons expert, and I identify the
munitions used in human rights violations all over the world. It’s important
work that can really make an impact, and I even still get to write books on
There are recent—and significant—accomplishments from
other members of the Castner family. Can you share?
Let me brag about my wife Jessie, who is a board-certified emergency
nurse and PhD scientist doing research on air quality and healthy
environments. She was just inducted into the
American Academy of Nursing, which is a big deal
and high honor for her discipline.
What do you do in your down time
In the winters, I’m mostly in a hockey arena,
watching my kids play, but all spring and summer
I’m a whitewater rafting guide on the Genesee
River and Cattaraugus Creek for Adventure Calls
Outfitters. In April, the water is mighty frigid, but
the rapids at their peak and the ride is a huge
Future projects in the works?
My next book is on the Klondike Gold Rush.
For research I’ve already backpacked the Chilkoot
Trail, the old stampede route in Alaska. I guess I’m
addicted to the cold.
FOR A GOOD
Faces of WNY
5: 30–8 p.m.
Benefiting Kevin Guest
Issue Release Party
Shea’s 710 Theatre
710 Main Street
5:30–7: 30 p.m.
Get the new issue free!
Labatt brews in Buffalo
The long awaited Labatt Brew House & Draft Room officially
opened in mid-November. The renovated 1919 building at 79 Perry
Street in the Cobblestone District is a five-story mixed use project
anchored by the first brewery to make Labatt beer in the United
This pilot or “innovation” brewery makes small batches (ten
barrels) of “new and emerging beer styles for Labatt fans,” the
The $20-million project is the corporate headquarters of both
Labatt USA and Pegula Sports and Entertainment, partners in the
In addition to the brew house, the project features the Draft
Room restaurant and beer garden, operated by Pegula, plus a few
Labatt Brew House & Draft Room
79 Perry Street, Buffalo
Hours: Sunday–Thursday 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
Friday–Saturday 11 a.m.– 10 p.m.
New on tap:
Porter: 6.1% | 37 *IBUs | 43 *SRM
IPA: 5.6% | 42 IBUs | 13. 2 SRM
Pale Ale: 4.3% | 29 IBUs | 6. 9 SRM
New England Style IPA: 5.9% | 38 IBUs | 8. 6 SRM
Kellerbier: 4.2% | 24 IBUs | 4. 2 SRM
Blonde Ale: 5.3% | 23 IBUs | 3. 8 SRM
Strawberry Gose: 4.6% | 7 IBUs | 3. 6 SRM
Hefeweizen: 4.3% | 14 IBUs | 5. 3 SRM
IBU is the abbreviation for the International Bitterness Units scale, a gauge of
*The Standard Reference Method, abbreviated as SRM, is the color system used
by brewers to specify finished beer and malt color from light (e.g., pilsner) to
dark (e.g., stout).