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Wells native’s first novel is a CIA spy thriller

By Staff | Sep 6, 2020

Wells native son Alton Ioerger with his wife, Clara. The couple resides in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

A former resident of Wells has written his first novel, a story about the Cold War titled “The First Recruit.”

Alton Ioerger is a retired educator and high school principal from Las Cruces, New Mexico. However, Ioerger grew up in Wells and says he has lots of memories of growing up in southern Minnesota.

“For years I wanted to write a book, but I couldn’t come up with anything to write about,” Ioerger says. “Mark Twain said the key to all good writing is to write about what you know. So, what did I know? I knew about growing up in Wells. I knew about being a teacher and a principal in public schools. I?know a lot of family history and I have traveled to lots of places around the world I now know a lot about. I knew about raising a family, having hobbies and family life.”

But, none of that seemed like it would be of interest to too many people. So, Ioerger decided to write an historical biography.

“I know a lot about the Cold War,” he says. “It is a period of history which, at least to some degree, I?experienced during my Army years, and while this is not autobiographical, parts of the narrative describe events from the 1970s that are in the public domain and known to be true.”

Alton Ioerger, who was born and raised in Wells, holds a copy of his recently published first novel, “The First Recruit.” Ioerger has spend most of his life being a teacher and principal in Las Cruces, New Mexico, as well as a few other places in the south.

The main character, Sergeant James Witt, is a trained marksman who is ordered to an Army sniper training school in Ft. Benning, Georgia. He is subsequently detached from his Army unit and transferred to Germany to work in a classified CIA project behind the Iron Curtain.

Witt’s story is an absorbing journey into the opaque world of brutal national conflicts, assassinations, and espionage. Eventually, the CIA’s project self destructs which leaves Witt alone, abandoned, and twisting in a silent world of isolation.

“What I tried to do in writing the book is to select events from the Cold War that are known to be historically accurate and then weave my characters into those events in a way the reader can’t easily figure out where fact stops and fiction begins,” Ioerger explains. “As a writer, that is the outcome I was aiming for.”

The author says the plot and setting centers mostly around CIA clandestine operations in Eastern Europe and his target audience is men, particularly veterans, Blackwater mercenaries, or those whose interest runs towards the clandestine dark arts, like spying or political assassinations.

“It is a study in violence so it will not likely appeal to readers who like mysteries, psychological thrillers, self-help guides, or romance novels,” he says. “it is not that kind of book.”

Ioerger has had an interesting life, which has prepared him for this next chapter in his life and make it possible for him to pen a novel.

After high school, Ioerger went to Mankato State and studied to be a teacher, but after college he was drafted in the Army. After being discharged he landed his first teaching job at Garden City High School, which has since become part of the Lake Crystal school system.

After teaching there for four years he had the opportunity to teach high school in Melbourne, Australia for three years.

After coming back from Australia, he applied to graduate school at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

“I thought I?would be in Las Cruces for a year or two at the most and then either return to Minnesota or else go wherever an opportunity presented itself,” Ioerger says. “But, while I was at New Mexico State, I met this really beautiful woman, Clara Schramm, from Santa Fe, and, well, Las Cruces became my home.”

The couple raised their children there and now have a grandson already in graduate school, and Alton and Clara will soon be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.

Both of them were school teachers, with Clara moving on to work with gifted students and Alton becoming a school principal, first in Las Cruces then in El Paso, Texas, for a while after he retired at Las Cruces.

Both are now fully retired and enjoy camping, traveling and hiking.

But, no matter where he has been or what he has done, Alton Ioerger has never forgotten his roots back in Wells.

“My great-grandfather, John Frederickson, owned the farm where Wells Prestressed Concrete now sits,” he says. “From the 1930s to the 1970s, my grandparents and parents ran various downtown businesses in Wells. My grandparents, Lafe and Hulda Ioerger, first opened a home improvement store, later a caf, and in the mid-1930s, established the first commercial dairy in Wells where dairy products were processed, bottled, and delivered around the area.

“In the 1940s, my father, Henry Ioerger, and my uncle Willard Ioerger, purchased the dairy and went into business for themselves. Later, in the early 1950s, they sold the dairy and my father and another businessman, E.C. Larson began a 15-year partnership in the Ford/Mercury auto dealership in Wells.”

In the late 1950s, after his grandfather died, Ioerger’s grandmother opened up a gift shop downtown. She lived above her store for decades and when she turned 80, she was celebrated as the oldest businesswoman in Wells, Ioerger says.

“All of my grandparents are buried in Wells and I have relatives who remain in the area and are living in Wells, Blue Earth, Delavan, Winnebago, Albert Lea and Mankato,” Ioerger says. “I enjoy visiting my friends and relatives and the green, and the water, and the lakes, and the miles of cornfields as far as the eye can see so my wife and I try to get back to the area every year or so to visit.”

“The First Recruit” by Alton Ioerger is available as an e-book, in paperback through most places books are sold and at the Wells Public Library.