Content Books’ influence as a local bookseller in Northfield extends beyond the bookish students, English teachers and retirees who scour its shelves. As author William Kent Krueger pointed out at his reading this past Tuesday, local booksellers represent a dying appreciation for the written word and the concepts and ideas they encompass.
Krueger – currently on tour following his latest mystery novel, Desolation Mountain – and others who pass through Content Books represent the kinds of stories independent book stores preserve.
Krueger came to Content Books as part of his tour following the Desolation Mountain. The book follows Cork O’Conner – a protagonist claiming seventeen of Krueger’s best-selling thrillers – and his son Stephen, as they investigate a plane crash on Desolation Mountain which caused the death of a U.S. Senator. Much like Krueger’s other novels, the book addresses racial prejudice, inequality, flaws within governmental operations and corporate greed.
Acknowledging societal issues such as these within a story is a writer’s responsibility, Krueger noted.
During the event, the audience asked Krueger where he falls on the political spectrum.
“I’m a die-hard liberal,” Krueger said, “And that comes through in my work.”
He went on to say that although he does try not to polarize topics within his stories, and although he always gives the other side a chance, his opinions about prejudices and societal flaws inevitably come through in his writing – as, he argues, they should.
“A book is the one place you can express your opinions without giving the other side a chance to fight back.” – William Kent Krueger
“A book is the one place you can express your opinions without giving the other side a chance to fight back,” Krueger said.
Along with speaking about the societal issues his books address, Krueger answered questions regarding his writing process and creative strategy as well as his struggle to find his voice as a writer. As an adolescent, he’d fallen in love with the works of Ernest Hemmingway and resolved to write the next great American novel. He worked for the first two decades of his career before realizing that it was foolish to force himself into a mold of writing that didn’t quite fit. He came to find that writing what people want to read has far more rewarding outcomes. Writing popular fiction, he argues, shouldn’t be a negative thing, as it’s often considered to be. On the contrary, he said mystery is a genre that is egalitarian, stretching across all socio-economic backgrounds. No other genre attracts any and all kinds of persons. That’s why he chose to write mysteries, and that’s why he continues to.
“When I sit down to write, I’m trying to show appreciation for the language we all share.” Krueger said.
When working together, writers like Krueger and local booksellers like Content Books create potential for conversation and learning that can bring us closer to one another and foster mutual understanding.