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Best-selling mystery author Manteca grad

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POSTED September 27, 2013 10:12 p.m.

All these thriller and mystery books have one thing in common: “Purgatory Ridge.” “Boundary Waters.” “Iron Lake.” “The Devil’s Bed.” “Mercy Falls.” “Blood Hollow.”

If you are a bibliophile, you probably know the common thread shared by these bestselling books right away. But even if you’re not, and you happen to hail from the Family City and attended Manteca High School, chances are you are already familiar with the common denominator shared by the above thrillers.

These are all books written by Manteca High graduate William Kent Krueger. He was a member of the 1969 graduating class.

They are not just best-sellers. They are award-winning books as well. “Iron Lake” alone has captured five top awards: the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the Barry Award, the Friends of American Writers Prize, and the Minnesota Book Award.

Praise for his books has been heaped on by the best critics in the world. On his book, “Blood Hollow,” described as a “brilliant new installment in the prize-winning Cork O’Connor series,” for example, Publishers Weekly’s review wrote: “Krueger skillfully crafts enough plot twists to keep everybody guessing through the bloody climax to the thrilling end.” And from Booklist: “Krueger’s dead-on depiction of a rural American town is as vivid and realistic as any in the genre.”

When Krueger came to Manteca as the featured author in the inaugural Great Valley Bookfest held at Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley on South Union Road south of the 120 Bypass, he was enthusiastically welcomed by former high school teachers, classmates, neighbors and friends. Many of them eagerly purchased copies of his books that he brought to the show and were lucky to have them autographed by the author himself. His books at the Book Exchange in Manteca were sold out two weeks before the event. Many of the customers purchased his books to have them autographed by Krueger.

Personal background

Krueger was not the only member of his family that was affiliated with Manteca High. His late father, Clarence Krueger, also taught English on the Buffalo campus.

Like many high school teen-agers, Krueger also found a part-time job. He was employed at the Manteca Bulletin during his senior year as an inserter and floor sweeper, he said during an e-mail interview conducted last year. He was “trying to save money for college. I went in twice a week – once to help stuff inserts, and on Friday, to sweep the place clean. Loved the job. I quit to play varsity tennis…. I’ve always remembered my time with the Bulletin quite fondly.”

Writing was not his only forte in high school; he was chosen “Outstanding Senior in the English Department” along with classmate Rene Legris. He was also “voted the top senior boy in the science department” with Legris as the “outstanding senior girl.”

After high school, he briefly attended Stanford University “before leaving to experience the ‘real world,’ which included working as a logger, construction worker, freelance journalist, and a researcher in childhood development,” reads his official book cover biography. The same source states that he lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and children.

Krueger may have left Manteca for good but he continues to have memories of the small town where he spent his teen-age years. Reminiscing the years he lived in the Pumpkin Capital of the World, he told the Bulletin, “Although this was during the turbulent ‘60s, when the Vietnam War divided the nation, my memories of Manteca are pretty idyllic. Great classmates, terrific teachers, quiet small town life, wonderful proximity to San Francisco (where I’d go on weekends and try to fit in with the hippie scene). The fall I left Manteca to attend Stanford University, my family also left town. My father had been accepted into a graduate program at Denver University, so the rest of the Krueger clan headed off to Colorado.”

Both of his parents are deceased.

The best-selling author considers award-winning authors Tony Hillerman and James Lee Burke as the writers who have influenced him the most.

— ROSE ALBANO RISSO

209 staff reporter

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