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Mantecas very own, William Kent Krueger, Among 30+ authors at Great Valley BookFest

Call me Kent.

In Hemingway-esque fashion, the multi award-winning American author and crime writer of the popular Cork O’Connor book series, introduces himself in his official website profile at beginning with those three 11-letter words.

His biographical sketch touches on his “Birth and Afterbirth,” “The Real World,” “Flame Broiled Fiction,” plus the “Addendum 2011” in which he gives an update on what had changed up to that point “in the spirit of disclosure,” as he put it.

That’s his general-public-consumption biography which gives the reader a reading foretaste of his writings, and why they are flying off the shelves and winning awards.

Below is the local version of his life-story with a special Manteca flavor.

First off, he is a Buffalo graduate.

“I attended Manteca High from the fall of 1968 until my graduation in the summer of 1969. My father (Clarence) taught English there,” he said in an interview conducted via e-mail.

He lives with his family in St. Paul, Minnesota, but was in Oregon when he responded – very promptly – to this reporter’s e-mailed questions. He explained that he was “in Oregon at the moment, taking a much needed break from touring for my most recent novel, ‘Trickster’s Point’.”

Worked for the Manteca Bulletin as an inserter and floor-sweeper

Actually, being a Buffalo graduate was not the first thing he mentioned.

“The first thing you ought to know,” he began – after commenting about “how wonderful there’s a story” about him “brewing” in the Bulletin – “is that I worked for the Bulletin when I lived in Manteca. This was when I was a high school senior 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, but I’ve always remembered my time with the Bulletin quite fondly.”

For photographs taken during his senior year at Manteca High, he suggested that this reporter check the Tower yearbook from 1969 which, he said, contains “lots of photos of me.” There was, indeed, no shortage of photographs taken while he was a senior Buffalo. One, in particular, gave a hint of what was to come which correctly predicted the success in the field that he is enjoying today as an award-winning author. One page in the Tower yearbook, obtained at the Manteca Public Library’s reference desk, shows his picture under the heading, “English Department – Leaders in Literature” with the caption stating that he and classmate Rene Legris were chosen as “Outstanding Seniors in the English Department.”

Krueger evidently excelled in other fields as well. He was also “voted the top senior boy in the science department” with, again, Legris as the “outstanding senior girl.”

Extracurricular activities and community involvements were curtailed by his job at the Bulletin “and other responsibilities at home,” he said. Except for one writing escapade that could have landed him in hot water but, thanks to his lucky stars, left him unscathed.

“I did write for a short-lived underground newspaper published by a couple of my classmates at Manteca High. They ended up getting suspended, but somehow I escaped punishment,” he noted without naming names.

Krueger may have left The Family City, but the Manteca he called home toward the end of the 1960s is still very much in his heart and mind. In fact, he said, “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 the 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 his parents have since passed away.

The small-town Manteca flavor he experienced first-hand is infused in many of his writings, he said. “I write often of small town life in my books, and my experiences in Manteca have certainly added richness to the depictions. Manteca has claim to a good deal of territory in the real estate of my heart.”

Krueger credits bestselling and award-winning authors Tony Hillerman and James Lee Burke as the writers who have influenced him the most. But at the top of that list is Ernest “Papa” Hemingway. In the interview he gave for Shots magazine, Krueger explains what he admires about the Pulitzer Prize-winning Hemingway’s prose in the following words: “His prose is clean, his word choice perfect, his cadence precise and powerful. He wastes nothing. In Hemingway, what’s not said is often the whole point of a story. I like that idea, leaving the heart off the page so that the words, the prose itself, is the first thing to pierce you. Then the meaning comes.”

William Kent Krueger will be among the authors who will meet and greet guests at the first ever Great Valley BookFest – Celebrating the fun of reading” to be held all day Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley in Manteca.

209 staff reporter