The Journey Begins

Miles-IslandThe journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

I took the first step this past week.

For anyone who missed my initial blog entry, here’s the deal.  I’ve embarked on a journey this summer that will involve a first for me—rereading all the books in the Cork O’Connor series.  My perspective has always been that once a book is finished and published, what’s the use in going back over it?  There’s been a good deal of hullabaloo recently regarding Jeffrey Archer’s reworking of his bestselling saga Kane and Abel. Frankly, I don’t understand his decision.  Why spend time repaving an old road when there’s lots of country still ahead to explore?

In my own journey, I don’t intend to make any changes.  I’m just an observer.  I’m interested in revisiting the stories I left behind to see if my memory of them matches their reality.  Honestly, many of the details of the books are vague things to me now, lost in the mist of the past.  So this is a journey of reacquaintance, not reworking.

This week I began reading Iron Lake, my first published novel and the first entry in the Cork O’Connor series. I’m halfway through the book and here are my initial reactions, taken directly from the notes I’ve been making as I read:

Love this prologue.

This is a reference to the opening scene, in which a young Cork O’Connor goes on a bear hunt that helps end his grieving over the death of his father.  This is a scene that I wrote when I was nearing the end of the book, at the suggestion of my writer’s critique group.  A great suggestion.

Ester-LakeOh, Jesus, Henry Meloux is so different.

Henry, a very old Ojibwe Mide, is my favorite character in the series.  Much of who he is in the stories is already there (his humor particularly), but in the first few scenes he’s roughly drawn and in ways that I don’t visualize when I write him now.

Moves a little slowly.

I’ve learned that in the genre, pace is everything and anything that slows pace ought to end up on the cutting room floor.  There’s plenty here that drags the pace down.  Which is interesting, because, at my agent’s suggestion, I cut the initial manuscript by one hundred and twenty pages to move the story along more rapidly.  I thought I’d done a good job.  I could have done better.

Hmmm…the geography is not as I see it now.

The town of Aurora, the configuration of Iron Lake, the details of the locations on the reservation and in Tamarack County are not now in my imagination as I created them back in the 90s.  Damn, I should keep a black book of all details so that they don’t change!

That’s it for now.  I’m sending some postcards along so that those of you who have never seen the North Country of Minnesota might understand the beautiful place that is the home of Cork O’Connor.

15 thoughts on “The Journey Begins”

  1. Hi Kent,
    Have you written Bobbi and I into the next book as affable, fun-loving, heavy-sweating teamsters, driving heavy equipment at the mine? I’m looking forward to the next Cork book. I was going to reread F. Scott Fitzgerald later this summer, but you’ve almost convinced me to reread Wm. Kent Krueger’s novels instead. I ramble. My 40th high school class reunion is July 30 and 31. We need to discuss class reunions sometime. I really don’t want to go. I’m on the planning committee. I really don’t want to go…whine, whine. Okay, what I’m really writing about is a topic we discussed at lunch at Mayhem–murders, including that of a 5-year-old boy, in Rulo, NE. You sounded intrigued at the time. There was a recent article in the newspaper regarding the release of one of the cult members from prison after serving 24 years. I’d like to send it to you, if you’re still interested in Rulo as a possible storyline. It’s creepy. Let me know. Hi to your lovely wife!
    –Kathleen

  2. Kathleen,

    You’re both in there all right. A pretty intimidating duo.

    Skipping my 40th reunion. Traveling too much as it is, though I’d love to go. Ah, well.

    Kent

  3. I’ve been re-reading the series as well. Finishing up Purgatory Ridge now, which is the first W.K. Krueger book I ever read.

    A few thoughts I’ve had in re-reading the series.

    IRON LAKE. I love this book. One thing it had that I have honestly missed in subsequent books is the hint of the supernatural. Is the manidoo real, or only a myth? The story leaves evidence supporting both arguments, and the author never tips his hand completely one way or the other, leaving it totally up to the reader. It’s brilliant. And as much as I love subsequent books, I do miss this hint of the supernatural in the stories.

    A friend of ours is a bookseller at our local bookstore, and we recently thrust IRON LAKE in his hands. He loved it and is recommending it to all his customers. My wife said he sold 10 last week, and as a result, the other Cork books are selling too. Because of this hint of the supernatural, he’s been able to recommend it to a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz fans, and they love it.

    I think I might have found one teeny continuity error in the book, unless I read it wrong. There’s a scene about halfway through the book where Cork and Jo take the kids into Sandy Parrant’s office, and it says specifically that Jenny waits in the car. But when they leave the office and are headed out, Jenny is given some dialogue, even though she’s supposedly waiting in the car. Did I read that wrong?

    BOUNDARY WATERS. Again, loved it. It’s different than IRON LAKE in that even though it is still a great thriller/mystery, it’s also a great wilderness adventure story. I don’t know how anyone could read this book and not want to spend a summer in a cabin in the Boundary Waters. Finishing again after having read subsequent books, I wondered what happened to Shiloh. She was set on setting up a studio to record the songs and stories of her people. Did she? Is it in Aurora? Is she still around? Not a big deal, but I do wonder.

    Mr. Krueger, you said that your publisher asked you to cut out 120 pages or so of the first book. What are the chances of fans ever seeing them? Maybe posting them on the website as sort of a “deleted scenes” feature. Whether they slowed the pacing or not, I’d love to read them.

    Keep up the great work! I can’t wait to read HEAVEN’S KEEP.

    Any plans for any other non-Cork books in the future? I read THE DEVIL’S BED a few years ago and loved it.

  4. Just got back from Thrillerfest, Kent, and I find you have a blog!?!?! Make me feel guilty will you. I’ve always maintained I don’t have the time or material for a blog. And here you are, managing to churn it out. Way to go.

  5. What is this nonsense about skipping your 40th reunion?!? Is this not the summer of self-discovery and personal review and reconnection? I’ll have you know that on July 6, I began reading your first Cork O’Connor tome. I wanted to start at the beginning to see where you were and how far you had come. My husband actually grabbed it out of the Amazon.com box and read it first. Not bad, said the publisher of 19 newspapers whose personal collections include leatherbound copies of JRR Tolkien and Steven King, the early years. I am reading in anticipation of seeing you again — and now you say perhaps not. I am deeply disappointed. Are there no readers in the Pacific Northwest? Do book tours not encompass Seattle or Portland? Do we have to muster a 41st reunion? Jim Henderson made his plane reservations today from Orange County. Buns up, Kent. Explore your roots and the influence we all had upon them. Love the book, by the way — 20% into it in between my own writing projects.

  6. And, oh, by the way — my sons will now be reading the books because I once told them the tale of the Windigo — at least the version I had been told when I was young — one dark moonless night when they were young as we were driving in my Jeep on a portion of the Metolius-Windigo Trail that runs from Camp Sherman to Three Creeks Lake near Sisters, Oregon. So, see — there is research to be had in a trip west.

  7. It’s nice to know people actually read these things!

    Mark, the continuity error…probably was a continuity error. Ooops. As for Shiloh, we’ve lost touch with each other. And those 120 pages have been, more or less, incorporated into the other books. Mostly they involved the backstory of why Jo O’Connor is occasionally such a bitch. As for non-Cork books, I have another in works, and it may be the best thing I’ve ever written. I hope to approach my publisher with it early next year. We’ll see.

    Randy, I’ll get back to you about the reunion.

    And, Julie, how was Thrillerfest?

    Kent

  8. > Mostly they involved the backstory of why Jo O’Connor is occasionally such a bitch.

    Ha. Funny you should mention that. Our bookseller friend, after finishing IRON LAKE, said, “I LOVED the book, but I HATED Cork’s wife.” We had to reassure him, “Keep reading. You’ll understand why and like her more as the books go along.”

    Thrilled to hear you’ve got another book in the works. Best of luck!

  9. I had never heard of your books prior to picking up a copy of Thunder Bay last summer in a small bookstore while my wife was shopping. I remember looking at the book and thinking, “I guess I might as well read something while I site here and wait”. Anyway I picked it up and did not hardly put it down until I was done, then promptly got on amazon and ordered the complete series, along with downloading iron lake to my ipod, since I travel for work a lot, I’ve listened to iron lake at least 5 times, every time I pick up another detail I missed. Prior to picking up Thunder Bay I had not read much for novels in the last 10 yrs, I’ve just been to busy with work I thought. The only other books I had read were from Nathan Jorgenson, ( which if you have not read “waiting for white horses” or “the mulligan” I suggest you check them out. Since then, I’ve been through all of CJ Box’s series and some others.

    All that being said, I feel the level of detail in Iron Lake is excellent, I’m not sure more what you could have cut out of it. The detail in that book adds flavor and depth to the story, and helps paint the pictures in the readers mind. I honestly think it is the best book in the series in that aspect as I could picture the scenes and places as if I were there. I’d hate to see that amount of detail traded for keeping the story moving. I’d also say I’m pretty partial to Henry Meloux

    I’m gald to see you have more in the works, I’m looking forward to them.

  10. Brian,

    Always glad to hear from a new reader, especially someone who likse my work. And other authors you’ve referenced, I like them too.

    Kent

  11. Hi Kent,

    I stumbled accross your book “Thunder Bay”, while I was at my local library. I swear that after the first few pages I could not put the book down, since then I have been on a mission to read every Cork O’Connor book. Your stories of Cork really touch me, I love Henry Meloux I wish he were my pop, whilst reading I feel I have known your characters all my life. Just a big thanks for the enjoyment I get out of reading your books. I will be certainly passing your books onto my children.
    Marion

  12. Darn you! I finally picked up one Iron Lake to read subsequently have been up way to late the last several nights! In fact I’m so mad I plan to get a copy of Boundary Waters soon. I’m just sorry it took me so long to read one of your books – I used to see you at the coffee shop off Hamline Ave. in St. Paul when I stopped in on my way to work and kept telling myself I need to take the Cork plunge. If the rest of your novels are as captivating as Iron River I will now need more coffee!

  13. Kent,

    I second Mark S. sentiment. Would like to see a full version with the 120pp restored to Iron Lake. I thought the book was too short! I might be unduly influenced by just having finished 9 months labor reading Les Miserable however.

    Craig A.

  14. Mr. Krueger,

    I had been curious about your books since first seeing them at a bookstore last Spring. I checked reviews on amazon, mostly good reviews there – then I took a trip to Montana in October. I had to change planes in Minneapolis and there was a two-hour layover so I spent some time getting lunch at the airport, talking with locals. The return trip was the same, another layover in Minneapolis – and I have decided that Minnesotans are the nicest, friendliest people in America. Their hospitality exceeds that of the South where I live. The point in relating all this is that I decided once and for all to read Iron Lake because of my brief time in Minnesota, and I am finding it to be a great read. You’ve represented Minnesotans well and the descriptions of landscape are unbeatable; love the Anishinaabe and references to Windigo. I think I’ll be spending my next vacation in Minnesota.

    Thanks for writing a unique story and I look forward to finishing Iron Lake and getting to the rest of the series.

    Marlena

  15. hi…..
    Iron lake : It’s brilliant. And as much as I love subsequent books, One thing it had that is the hint of the supernatural. I love this book. It’s brilliant.

    Oundary waters : It’s different because, it is a great thriller/mystery. and also a great wilderness adventure story.

    Thanks for writing a unique story .

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