In a year dominated by rancorous politics, divided nations, desperate refugees, and a climate morphing monstrously before our eyes, I’ve tried to maintain a sense of hope. I’m not talking about a Pollyanna view that all will be well, but rather a belief that, in the end, the human heart will always bend toward compassion, that what we share in common as human beings will always be greater than what separates us, and that love will always be a more powerful force than fear or hatred in shaping our future.
This year, I published a book called This Tender Land. Should you ask me what I wanted readers to take most from the story, I would say that it was simply this: If we hold together as family, as friends, as fellow human beings, our journey will always take us to the place our hearts know is home. As we slide from one year into the next, my wish for all of you is that you find your way home.
Here are images of a few of my favorite moments from 2019. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed living them.
February: During the snowiest February on record in the Twin Cities, well over 30 inches fell. Living in Minnesota in the winter is a little like being in a marriage. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
March: I slipped away from the snow drifts and winter vortex of the Midwest for a few days to attend the always terrific Tucson Festival of Books. The Southwest sun felt good, but the warmth of all the friendship I found was the real joy. Here I am with two of my favorites—Cara Black and Rhys Bowen.
May: Barnes and Noble asked me to sign 14,000 copies of their Exclusive Edition of This Tender Land. The Exclusive Edition contains an original essay and accompanying photos in which I discuss some of the research I did for the novel. Here I am over Memorial Day weekend, launching into the signing of the customized tip-in sheets, which were included when the books were bound.
June: 8,000 title pages signed. Only 6,000 more to go! (Orders were so brisk that in August, the folks at Barnes & Noble asked me to sign another 3,000!)
July: Here’s a photo of the crowd that gathered last week to hear me speak at the library in Kasson, Minnesota, population just over 5,900. The official count: One hundred and seventy-nine attendees. Libraries are an important cornerstone of our democracy, and I love doing library events, rural libraries especially.
August: This photo was taken atop the ancient wall surrounding the beautiful city of York in the UK, where I went on holiday prior to beginning the long book tour for This Tender Land. Behind me: regal Gray’s Court and the towering stone of York Minster, the second largest cathedral in Europe. This was my first visit to Great Britain and it did not disappoint.
August: Scout & Morgan Books, along with Hermans Bakery in Cambridge, MN, surprised me with a beautiful This Tender Land cake!
September: My book tour took me down the Mississippi River and back. Here I am at a bald cypress swamp on the Natchez Trace, and at the Big River Crossing in Memphis.
September: In Vero Beach, FL, with my wife Diane.
October: I had one of the most enjoyable events of my entire book tour in Decorah, Iowa, sponsored by Dragonfly Books, with nearly 150 people jostling for a seat in the event area of Impact Coffee.
November: I attended Bouchercon (the international mystery convention), which was held in Dallas. I love this mystery community and am so proud to be among writers who are so talented and so much fun, and among readers who are so gracious to us all.
December: Mystery Scene magazine, one of the premier publications in the mystery/crime/suspense genre, splashed my face across the cover of their winter issue. Inside is a fine article written by Teri Duerr about me, my body of work, and This Tender Land. Teri’s an extraordinary journalist and she did a stellar job of capturing the delightful conversation we had in my garden in St. Paul.
Finally, a pair of talented local musicians, Fendrick and Peck (Madeline Fendrick and Brian Peck), composed a song in celebration of This Tender Land. I’ve never felt so moved or so honored. Here’s a video of them performing the song.