By Amalia P. Spagnolo
If it seems that William Kent Krueger has been in practically every little bookstore in the country, you’re not imagining things. The Minnesota mystery writer and New York Times bestselling author said, “I’m always doing events. I never stop doing events.” However, he’d have it no other way.
The man loves bookstores.
Krueger has fond memories of frequenting the local bookshop when he was a boy. “When I was growing up, every community had its town bookstore,” he recalled. “You walked in there. You felt comfortable, and people knew you and what you wanted to read.” For Krueger, the local bookseller isn’t just any store, but “a part of the community.”
Krueger visits the Iron Range for signing events at two area booksellers on Friday, Aug. 29. He will be at Village Book Store in Grand Rapids, starting at 2:30 p.m., and at Howard Street Booksellers in Hibbing at 4:30 p.m. Both events are free to the public.
Last week Tuesday, Aug. 19, Krueger’s most recent work “Windigo Island” was released. His 16th novel (and 14th Cork O’Connor book) is the mystery of a young Ojibwe girl whose body washes up on an island in Lake Superior and whose friend has disappeared. Because it delves into the world of sex trafficking of young teens—particularly vulnerable, Native women— Krueger calls it “the most issue-oriented book I’ve ever written.”
Besides being inspired by what he calls “one of the most important, significant issues of our time,” “Windigo Island” is regarded as a well-crafted mystery novel. It has earned starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist magazines. W magazine called it “excellent,” while Booklist described it as “a punch-to-the-gut blend of detective story and investigative fiction… as blistering and crucial in its indictments of contemporary evil as ‘The Jungle’ (by Sinclair Lewis).”
Lauded as one of the best mystery writers in recent times, Krueger has received three Anthony Awards (named for mystery writer Anthony Boucheron). In 2013, he won the Edgar Award (namesake of author Edgar Allan Poe) for “Ordinary Grace.” Krueger ties with Louise Erdrich for winning the most Minnesota Book Awards — five.
Krueger’s last five novels have charted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list and sell across the globe (his seventh novel “Thunder Bay” was titled “Roar of Blood” in Japan). “He is just a few good months away from selling his 1 millionth book,” said Krueger’s publicist, David Brown of Atria Books.
“Whoa. A million,” Krueger marveled upon hearing the prediction of his friend, to whom Krueger dedicated “Windigo Island.” “It caught me by surprise.”
His awed reaction fits comfortably with the easy-going writer who enjoys touring with his books on the local bookstore circuit, often lingering in the shops. “I love that personal connection with readers,” he said. “They come. They meet me. They think maybe I’m a nice guy and that I write a pretty good book.”
Krueger’s book appearances are gaining more notice and larger audiences because of the friendly meet-and-greet events. “I think we’re seeing a crest here of the wave,” he said. “They tell their friends and neighbors about me, and word spreads.”
Asked how the visits have changed, Krueger said, “In terms of events I do in general now, they are the best they’ve ever been. Getting a lot of folks out for them—it’s been nice! I think that winning the Edgar Award gave a lot of credibility to my work. People, over time, have become more and more aware of me.”
Krueger spoke at length about his high regard for local bookstores.
“Probably 99 percent of the store events that I do are for independents. I do a few (big) ones, but most of it is for the independent bookstores across the country. If they’re gone, then who’s left? Given the decision of who I want (making) the books be available, I want the Independents to be part of the game. I support the Independents tremendously.”
Krueger continued, “In large measure, I go back to the stores because I have a personal relationship with the booksellers. I know they’re struggling. If I can do something to help them fight against the online e-tailers, I will.”
He added, “I have real difficulty thinking, ‘I’ll hit this bookstore, but not that bookstore.’ How can I justify skipping someone’s store? So if I’m going to do anybody’s, I’m going to do everybody’s.”
For more information, log onto www.williamkentkrueger.com and www.facebook.com/williamkentkrueger.