A Minnesota milieu for murder, mayhem

  • Article by: DAVID GUSTAFSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2007 - 10:45 AM

A Roseville mystery writer and his colleagues have published their second anthology.

The mystery no one can seem to solve is why does Minnesota have so many mystery writers?

In an introduction to the new short story anthology "Resort to Murder," author Lorna Landvik writes that maybe, in a state that boasts 10,000 lakes, it's something in the water.

Regardless of where the writers come from, one group is trying its best to bring a few of them out of the shadows.

The Minnesota Crime Wave, a trio of Twin Cities-area mystery authors, has just published "Resort to Murder," its second anthology. Its 2005 collection, "Silence of the Loons," won an award from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association and, according to Crime Wave cohort and Roseville native Carl Brookins, "is becoming sort of a phenomenon."Resort to Murder," scheduled to be released next month, brings together 13 of Minnesota's mystery writers, some of whom are established names and others who have just published their first story.

The 184-page book makes a quick read for the mystery fan spending the weekend "up north" and also serves as a nice introduction to a variety of emerging and established Minnesota mystery authors.

Brookins is one-third of the Minnesota Crime Wave, along with partners-in-crime William Kent Krueger and Ellen Hart. We spoke with him last week.

So why are there so many mystery writers in Minnesota?

That's not a question I can absolutely answer. It seems at times there is. I've never seen a survey. What I do know is there are a lot of good mystery writers in Minnesota, and there's seems to have been for quite awhile.

Why could that be?

I think there are some serious reasons and some not-so-serious reasons. The serious reasons are that the level of education in this state is very high compared to a great many other states. And there has always been -- at the University of Minnesota, at Mankato, at Hamline -- very strong writing programs. And we've always had a couple of regular newspapers in the Twin Cities, which have also encouraged people's writing.

And the not-so-serious reasons?

Long winters -- it's a way to stave off cabin fever. People write down their worst, nasty ideas.

To provide a common thread for the stories in "Silence of the Loons," you provided eight clues with the rule that each writer had to incorporate at least four. The thread running through the second anthology is that each mystery takes place at a Minnesota resort. Are these settings real places?

They are all real places. The problem is they aren't named because we want to protect our assets ... The other thing about "Resort to Murder" that is different is that we invited authors who weren't necessarily published mystery authors. So some of the authors -- about half the group as I recall -- have never had a mystery published.

Mystery writers seem to share a quirky sense of humor.

We spend all of our working life thinking about different ways to kill people and solve murders.

Is there something funny about murder or is it that thinking about it all the time just makes you crazy?

I can't speak for all authors, but if you really look at the books, we're not really writing about killings and beatings and things of that nature, we're really writing about the human condition, which sounds very pretentious, but in fact that's true. We are writing about relationships and what brings people to the point in their relationship where they can kill somebody.

So the genre is just a vehicle to tell a larger human story?

In a large part that's true. But it is also a commercial enterprise. We want to be paid. All those things are important. One of the problems of so-called literary fiction -- another genre -- is it can get very heavy and very sticky to the point that I think people can take themselves too seriously.

People who aren't fans of mysteries sometimes say there's a formula. Is there a formula?

No.

Do some mystery writers follow a formula?

Of course, in all genres there are people who write to a particular formula, but there really isn't a formula. I write these stories to find out what's going to happen.

  • MORE INFO

    "Resort to Murder" is available for pre-order from Nodin Press at www.nodinpress.com and Amazon.com, and it will be available in local bookstores in September.

    For more information about the Minnesota Crime Wave, visit them online at www.minnesotacrimewave.org.

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