Book signing draws dozens to Elma Timberland Library

True crime and history author Bryan Johnston showcased his newest novel to the audience

Pacific Northwest history buffs and true crime fanatics got to experience a unique opportunity in Grays Harbor over the weekend.

On Saturday, the Elma Timberland Library hosted a meet and greet as well as a book signing with Bryan Johnston, the author of ‘Deep in the Woods: The 1935 Kidnapping of Nine-Year-Old George Weyerhaeuser, Heir to America’s Mightiest Timber Dynasty.’

The Weyerhaeuser Company, which was founded in 1900 in Tacoma, Washington, and owns more than 26 million acres of timberland throughout the United States and Canada, has deep ties to Grays Harbor County which to present day remains one of the most valuable lumber areas in Washington.

While the audience of more than two dozen people got to query Johnston about the book, there was a presentation put together by Johnston that was showcased, detailing some of the most notable facts from the 1935 kidnapping.

“My promise to you, by the time you leave here, is that you’re going to go home and tell your friends and family who didn’t show up today that they screwed up big time,” said Johnston, drawing laughs from the audience. “This is not hyperbole; this is going to be one of the most fascinating stories you’ve ever heard in your life.”

Perhaps one of the more fascinating ties the book has to the Harbor community, as seen by the audience’s reaction when Johnston told the story, was that one of the kidnappers, Harmon Waley, was a Hoquiam resident.

Johnston, who has prior experience in creative writing as well as broadcast journalism, showed photographs that were taken from when the crime occurred and newspaper clipping from notable journalism industries that documented the incident. He also talked about his personal interactions with George, who was 92 at the time, and what motivated him to write the story.

“I had written a couple of northwest-centric books and I was just looking for another northwest story to write about. After some time searching online, I stumbled across this story, and I thought it was interesting to the point where the more I read, the more fascinated I became,” said Johnston. I thought that had to be a book already written about this and there wasn’t which I couldn’t understand.”

According to the articles that Johnston had found regarding the Weyerhaeuser kidnapping, one of the prominent themes that appeared to him was that the Weyerhaeuser’s didn’t like to talk about the kidnapping, hence making it understandable why no long-form story of the ordeal had ever been crafted. However, to his surprise, George accepted Johnston’s inquiry to interview him, which helped him publish the book a year later in 2021.

Contact Reporter Allen Leister at 360-463-3572 or