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John Sandford made us famous

By Staff | Nov 25, 2018

I have been a fan of murder mystery author John Sandford for quite some time.

And now, I really am.

You are probably saying either “Who the heck is John Sandford?” or else “Yeah, I’m a big fan, too.”

Sandford is the author of 28 “Prey” novels and 11 “Virgil Flowers” novels, and several other books. The so-called “Prey” books all have the word prey in the title, such as “Invisible Prey,” “Naked Prey,” “Extreme Prey,” well, you get the idea.

The lead character in the “Prey” novels is Lucas Davenport, who advances through the series of books from Minneapolis police detective to chief to the BCA to the FBI, or something like that. So if you read them, it is not crucial but a good idea to do it in order.

The Virgil Flowers novels are a spin off from the Prey books, and feature Flowers, a BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension) agent who has worked with Davenport.

Almost all the Prey and Flowers novels are based in Minnesota, and it is fun to read the books and watch the adventures happen in places you know all about. That is one reason why I like Sandford.

Agent Flowers, for instance, is now based in Mankato and covers crimes in Southern Minnesota.

In case you are wondering why the books are based on places in Minnesota, well, John Sandford’s real name is John Roswell Camp. He was born and raised in Iowa and once worked as a reporter and a columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

That is another reason why I like him. He is a fellow journalist. Of course Sandford, as John Camp, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for a series of stories on the farm crisis in Southern Minnesota. In case you are wondering, no I have not won a Pulitzer. Yet.

Sandford has on occasion mentioned Blue Earth in his novels, but generally just in passing. Virgil Flowers has stopped here (in the books, that is, not real life he is not a real person…).

And Blue Earth plays a big part in the most recent Virgil Flowers book, “Holy Ghost.”

Since Sandford writes about violent crime, the actual locations of where these heinous murders and mayhem happen are fictional, just to not give any real city or county an undeserved black eye, fictional or not.

For instance, in one Virgil Flowers book, the action mainly takes place in a county along I-90 between Martin and Jackson counties. Well, as most of us know, there is no county between Martin and Jackson. They abut each other.

In that book, Flowers stops in Blue Earth on his way from Mankato to this fictional county.

But in “Holy Ghost” Flowers spends quite a bit of time in Blue Earth.

This time, the murders are happening in the small town, population 600, of Wheatfield. It is located right near Blue Earth.

Never heard of it? Me neither. I can’t really guess which small town around Blue Earth it might be, because I don’t think it is any of them. Just a made up town. Even the directions Flowers follows to get to Blue Earth then to Wheatfield don’t make sense to those of us who know the area.

The story involves two men trying to save their town of Wheatfield from dying by creating a hoax that the Virgin Mary has appeared in the town’s Catholic Church. Suddenly, the tourists start showing up in droves. I won’t tell you more, because I have been accused of giving out too many spoiler alerts in the past.

Anyway, there is something special in this recent Sandford novel that I really enjoyed. He mentions the Faribault County Register, because the people in Wheatfield are reading it. So I want to thank John Sandford for the nice plug for our newspaper.

It makes up for an incident in another one of the Virgil Flowers novels, set in a fictional town in Southeast Minnesota, where the first person killed off in the book was the local newspaper reporter. Ouch! Then it turns out it is the local school board that put out the “hit” on the reporter.

Now, I know our school boards may not always be happy with what we write, even the headlines, but I don’t think they have put out a contract on us.

So, if you are a John Sandford fan, don’t miss this latest one that is based near Blue Earth. If not a fan, you might want to give it a look. A warning however. Sandford is known for using strong language and describing violent crimes in detail in his books. And this one is no different.

Once again, thank you, John Sandford, for making us famous.

And finally, I want to thank all those folks in Wheatfield, for being such faithful readers of the Register.