June 22, 2021

Dean Klinkenberg Presents Ragtime and Murder

Dean Klinkenberg Presents Ragtime and Murder

Ep:089 Dean Klinkenberg is a proud Midwesterner who has lived his entire life in Flyover Country, although in 7 different places. After he set aside his ambitions to become a professional bowler, he went to college in La Crosse, Wisconsin, then on to St. Louis where he earned a PhD, met his future husband, and found a city to call home. He settled into an academic career where he set out to make the world a somewhat better place for people living on the margins: the homeless, people struggling with drug addiction, people living with HIV. After a dozen years, though, and a career careening toward middle management, he’d had enough and quit to search for a new path.

He was passionate about travel and the Mississippi River, so he combined those interests by writing about travel in the heart of the US. A few years later, he stretched his skills by writing his first novel, a mystery featuring openly gay travel writer named Frank Dodge. The series has grown to four books, and Klinkenberg looks forward to finding new ways to put Dodge in awkward and difficult positions to see how he finds a way out. Dodge, after all, confronts many of the same challenges we all face: figuring out who we are and what we want, feuding with people who don’t share our view of the world, and trying to hold on to those nuggets of happiness as long as we can.

QueerWritersOfCrime.com

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Dean Klinkenberg's Website

Dean's Non-Fiction Website

Keeping Secrets in St. Louis by Dean Klinkenberg

Conscious Bias by Alexi Venice

Dryland's End by Felice Picano

TAGS Podcast - Talk About Gay Sex

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Brad Shreve's Website


Transcript
Brad Shreve:

In this episode as always, Justene gives her book recommendation, but we have a special guest who gives one of his own plus Dean Klinkenberg and I talk about old Mississippi river and ragtime. This is Brad And you're listening to Queer Writers of Crime, where we feature LGBTQ authors of mystery, suspense, and thriller novels. Hey, this is Brad. Justene is coming up. But as you folks know, sometimes I find a show that I really love I think, wow, this is a great show. And today is one of those days. I have Steve V here from TAGS a podcast that I highly recommend. Steve, I'm going to let you tell them what TAGS means.

Steve V:

Hey, thanks for having me, Brad. Um, yeah, I like you, you like me? It sounds like a Barney song. I love it. Um, yeah, exactly. Um, so yeah, TAGS podcast now in its fourth year AKA talk about gay sex podcast. Um, it took me a minute realize, Hey, that's we have a good acronym in this. And I think after the second year, it was easy to shorten it to TAGS podcasts, and, uh, you know, that's always so rare to have a good you know, shortened version of it. So, Yeah. Uh, TAGS podcasts now, like I said, four years, interestingly enough, I used my time wisely in the pandemic and started a second one as if one wasn't it. The good news about the second one is it allowed me to bring in another co-host of mine. Uh, and this one's live video and it's interactive over on the get vocal platform soon to be vocal platform. Cause they're in, uh, switching over. And both of the shows I have to say, as you can imagine, talk about gay sex are about our sex lives with my cohost, but really it's about our gay LGBTQ sexuality. And I think I learned early on that. It would get a little tiresome if we were always just talking about who we hooked up with and when you really embrace all that is sexuality, it affects all of our lives in every capacity. And that of course includes relationships. And so in addition to some great cohosts uh, Lincoln, Jeremy Ross Lopez, and Kodi Maurice Doggette. We have special guests on all the time from people like in polyamorous relationships. We have a great doctor who is a proctologist. We call him the, the, the ass doctor, the good doctor, Dr. Goldstein, but we'll have porn stars who, you know, we of course like to dig a little deeper into their lives, not just about what it's like to shoot, um, in many ways. So it's a lot of fun. We drop a show on Tuesday, the original. On a, wherever you get your podcasts, TAGS podcast, talk about gay sex podcast and then the live version drops on Thursdays. So Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

I want to tell you what I like about the show. First, I went to listeners as I was talking to Steve earlier, I accidentally said, talk about great sex. And we,

Steve V:

I didn't complain on that.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, we both agree great gay sex is perfect. So maybe it should be two GS on TAGS.

Steve V:

Exactly.

Brad Shreve:

one, what I really like about your show is it is a lot about sexuality, and it's fun to listen to, but unlike a lot of shows that I hear talk about sexuality. It's not juvenile.

Steve V:

No. No.. Thank you. You.

Brad Shreve:

There are a lot of them out there that are, and that gets, it can be funny for a little while and it gets old very fast.

Steve V:

Yeah. Kind of like a friend that, you know, you can only handle in small doses. It's the same with our show too. Yeah, no, I mean, we talked to people like how we want to be talked to and how we talk to each other about our sex lives and where we report on what's going on in, in the news related to our sexuality to keep people informed. So it's, it's a nice mix. I believe.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. It's, not clinical. It's not a bunch of guys in the locker room. It's somewhere.

Steve V:

Exactly. Exactly. So check it out. TAGS podcast.

Brad Shreve:

I highly recommend it. And since you are on a show where we talk about books, I asked you to share with us a book that you're reading now, or you enjoy, which one are you going to do?

Steve V:

Okay. So I'm currently in the middle of this great page turner called The Last Flight by author Julie Clark. And what I can tell you about it aside from, like I said, being a page turner is it starts with two character, one character, Claire, who is. essentially from married a well-to-do son of a politician, and she kind of married into this lavish political, rich family that she did not come from. Sadly, it's an abusive relationship. So she, after so much time, wants you get out of this societal New York lifestyle, and the only way she can get out of it is she has to fake her death and she, with the help of a former. classmate and a brother, she manages to create a new identity. And as she's at the airport heading with her new life, new identity, she overhears, uh, it's. It becomes this isn't giving away too much. She overhears in the news that her husband already has found out about this. So her plan is not going to work and she meets up with another woman. Who also is trying to get out of her life. Now, the other woman's life, Eva is much darker relating to drugs. And so they swap identities and one goes to one destination and I'm at the part where Claire is in, uh, Berkeley, California, which I love because that's where I went to school. And she's finding more and more. Yeah. Eva's life that her new identity that is going down a dark path and I'll just leave it at that. But it's called The Last Flight by author Julie Clark.

Brad Shreve:

It sounds like a thriller.

Steve V:

Definitely. Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

Oh, so it fits the theme of the show.

Steve V:

Yeah. yeah,

Brad Shreve:

Perfect.

Steve V:

Oh no. I loved your show and I love, um, thrillers and all that, uh, are up my alley.

Brad Shreve:

And you did mention you enjoy Justene's recommendations. I wanted to make sure we get that in there.

Steve V:

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

Brad Shreve:

Well, again, it's TAGS talk about gay sex and I'm presume they can pretty much find you anywhere. they're listening to the show.

Steve V:

Yup. Apple podcast, Spotify everywhere. We're um, we are in your ear buds.

Brad Shreve:

Wonderful. Well, thanks for stopping in Steve.

Steve V:

Thanks Brad.

Brad Shreve:

Hey, Justene. Do you remember about, um, I think it was five months ago? It was episode number 68. You did a recommendation for a book by Dean Klinkenberg.

Justene:

The Frank Dodge series, I really liked that. That was the one that the Mississippi has its own character.

Brad Shreve:

Well, we talk about the Mississippi because he has a deep love for it. And we talk about today. Cause he is the guest today.

Justene:

Yeah. I'm looking forward to that.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, it was a lot of fun and very interesting. And just before this, as you heard talk to Steve V with Tags, podcast, one thing I forgot to mention while he was on is I am on his show for longer period, it's a special Pride episode. And. I stole your thunder.

Justene:

Oh no. Man.

Brad Shreve:

He asked me to do my list of five summer readings for Pride.

Justene:

Oh yeah. I can't ever narrow it down to five. You know, I'm sitting there thinking, oh, I'm just going to hurt people's feelings. Plus I will leave out the one thing that I think people really ought to read.

Brad Shreve:

I tend to leave the book recommendations to you.

Justene:

Yes.

Brad Shreve:

Because since I interview people, I don't want to get into this whole thing of do I like their book? Do I not?

Justene:

Yes.

Brad Shreve:

I easily came up with five that I would suggest. So if people want to know the five books, I think they should read this summer, listen to that episode of TAGS T A G S podcast. And it's on sometime next week. I don't know what day,

Justene:

I hope there are at least a few of them on there that I've recommended.

Brad Shreve:

Um, I don't know.

Justene:

You have no idea here. Like reading, you're like reading completely different books, recommending completely different books. Paying no attention to what I'm telling you every week, but that's okay. It's all right. I just keep coming back, you know, just keep going back.

Brad Shreve:

The ones I chose were not only good books but they had a significance in a way.

Justene:

Oh, so my books are, I don't have any significance. Okay. I

Brad Shreve:

Well, not all of them. I will say that one thing when it comes to significant, all of them had recent releases except Joseph Hanson's been dead for a while. I did say if somebody wants an introduction to queer mystery, they need to read, Fadeout by Joseph Hanson.

Justene:

And I recommended that at some point very early on. early on.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, so we agreed there, but the other four will remain a mystery. Folks will have to tune in to listen to that.

Justene:

All right.

Brad Shreve:

And I'm why you have some things to tell us about.

Justene:

I do. I do, you know, We, I have finally gotten our act together. You've gotten our act together and put together the actions that we've gotten from people over the past week. And we can do some shout outs, Phillip Bahr. on Twitter said 8 of the books I've read so far this year are gay, queer mysteries, thanks to Queer Writers of Crime and Queer Writers of Crime. Thanks, Phillip Bahr. Um, and everybody who listens to we wouldn't do this without you guys.

Brad Shreve:

And I do. I say Phillip Bahr's great because when on Twitter, almost every post I make about the show he retweets. So obviously he's a fan.

Justene:

Yeah. And then, so, Sophiecarl, on Instagram said, thank you for your podcasts and highlighting new and already established Queer mystery authors. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I rely on you guys and I don't know what I do without you a million thank yous. So, I mean, these are just great feedback.

Brad Shreve:

We do have great tell listeners. I'm really excited about all the feedback that we get. That is so good. Do you have anything to tell us about today?

Justene:

Well, oh, did I was supposed to bring a book? Oh, wait, here it is Conscious Bias. A Monica Spade novel by Alexi Venice. And I have gone off the board and brought a legal thriller to the table. Not a mystery, but a thriller. And it's, you know, in the line of people like Scott Turow. the series is Conscious Bias is the first book. Standby Counsel is a second. And Graffiti Red Murder is a third. The second book won the 2020 Lesfic Bard Award. This is getting a crackerjack recommendation. It's gotten an award to make it glowing. It's got a fair amount of flaming in it. It's thrilling and it's intriguing. So it really hits on all four cylinders is getting my Crackerjack, recommendation.

Brad Shreve:

And I'm glad to hear you, uh, doing a thriller. We haven't done those in a while.

Justene:

Yeah, apparently I didn't know we did those, so, oops. We'll have more later guys.

Brad Shreve:

And I pointed this out to her at the beginning of every episode, I say mystery, suspense and thrillers. So when she said, I hope it's okay if I'm going to do a thriller, I'm like, why wouldn't you be

Justene:

Well, you know, you don't say ghost story, so I stopped listening

Brad Shreve:

Hey, Somebody asked, would we do a SciFi if it had a mystery, I said, as long as the mystery is very important to this story, it doesn't have to be a traditional mystery.

Justene:

And while we're like on scifi, let me put in a plug for Dryland's End by Felice, Picano. that ReQueered Tales my company we've put that out it's republished it's has some established fan base. And the second and third books of the trilogy have been written and we're going to be bringing those out for the first time. So if you pick up Dryland's End it is a, long, very intricately written and world-building, Space scifi fantasy. It's it's really, uh, very good book, but that's my plug for this week, but I'm going back now to Conscious Bias, a Monica Spade Novel. Now Alexi Venice, she has is a lawyer who, while in 2019, she was practicing 31 years. but Monica Spade is a young lawyer. She's been practicing three years. She, is working for a. small firm full of white men, at least two of whom are very, very homophobic. She was out all the way through college and law school and to her family and friends. And she has had to go back into the closet because of this law firm. Um, I think the homophobia is a little over the top, for this day and age., I think it would have been less blatant these days, but perhaps in a small town where this is set, it still gets to be that blatant,

Brad Shreve:

Here in Southern California, where we generally fell really comfortable being openly gay in sometimes even holding hands in public. Got remember boy was shot in a classroom because he was gay.

Justene:

Yes. But people who hire lawyers and who are lawyers and who are well aware of just how much trouble they can get into legally, probably aren't going to say that the outright bigoted things that would easily get them sued for a couple million dollars,

Brad Shreve:

no, this is true, but overlooking that.

Justene:

Overlooking that Monica is a really good attorney. She, um, one of her clients is a hospital and. they consult her with just about everything. at the beginning of the book they have four of their physicians being subpoenaed to testify, they have a joint venture, with a university and a construction company. And then they have a monkey loose in the hospital because this woman brought in her Capuchin monkey as a support animal, it got loose. And so every couple of chapters, when you, kind of getting really sucked in here, then boom, the monkey comes up again and does something. And it's just a little bit of humor, uh, and an otherwise serious tale. But she does everything. Uh, you know, I'm a little surprised that a third year associate knows off the top of her head that what you should do about a monkey, but, you know, I it's certainly well within the realm of possibility and it establishes her as, competent as you want a, main character in a series of legal thrillers to be The physicians. Being called to testify in a trial where a Saudi exchange student was killed in a bar fight by the, uh, local, probably white supremacists later, you find out whether he is or not. son of the most powerful, influential, biggest employer in town. And, they suspect the jury is going to home, town them, but, uh, then she starts getting death threats. If the physicians don't change the testimony and the whole, and the whole thing, you know, plays out as a, as a thriller would. and it is very believable. How. this third year lawyer. who's kind of handling day-to-day witness preparation stuff is suddenly being drawn into the focus of quite the international incident. It's a great book. It, moves along quickly. She's now let me just say a couple of weeks ago, maybe even last week, I mentioned that there was a book, uh, that was an also ran that talked a lot about ants and I was riveted by the ants. in this book she talks an awful lot about CrossFit and I wasn't riveted by the CrossFit, but I can see people being riveted by the CrossFit like any other sport balls or even ants, the deep background into some things is really great and CrossFit just didn't, appeal to me but she does it very well. She really kind of describes it for somebody who's never done CrossFit. She describes it very well. and she also shows the appeal of it. And as an added bonus, that's where Monica Spade meets what promises to be the love of her life and which is also an impetus for her coming out before the, tenure, with the firm gets too far along. But it's a good book. It gets a crackerjack recommendation. If you're really into legal thrillers, you'll love this. And if you're not sure about illegal thriller, pick this one up and I think you'll enjoy it. And then you'll probably get even further in at least you'll want to read the rest of the series.

Brad Shreve:

My guests Dean Klinkenberg is a proud Midwesterner who has lived his entire life in fly over country. Although in seven different places, he went to college in lacrosse, Wisconsin. Then onto St. Louis, where he earned a PhD, met his future husband and found a city to call home. He settled into an academic career where he set out to make the world a somewhat better place for people living in the margins, the homeless people, struggling with drug addiction, people living with HIV. After a dozen years though, and a career careening toward middle-management he'd had enough and quit to search for a new path. He combined his passions about travel and the Mississippi river into his first novel, featuring an openly gay travel writer named Frank Dodge. There are four novels in the series. The most recent Keeping Secrets in St. Louis released in April, 2021. Dean, I've got to ask you something.. my understanding was those of us on the west coast and on the east coast, refer to your neck of the country as fly over country. I thought you folks consider that a insult

Dean Klinkenberg:

I think maybe it's one of those things like you and I can probably call each other queer and be okay with that. But among Mid Westerners, it's okay to jokingly refer to this as, you know, fly over country, but we know we're doing it with a little snarky dose of humor.

Brad Shreve:

The, uh, book you sent me was, Keeping Secrets in St. Louis your most recent novel. and I want to tell you, when I read that book, you, you said you've lived in seven different places. but that novel seemed like. a love letter to St. Louis, am I accurate?

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah. Um, I didn't necessarily have that in front of my mind as I was writing it, but I've been in St. Louis for over 30 years. And this place is home for me more than any other place that I've lived. and I, I really feel like it's a city that's gotten a bad rap, nationally. I think it's really a great place to live a very underappreciated part of the country and under underappreciated city. Um, I don't, I guess I don't mind if it stays a little bit under the radar because it keeps our cost of living down. but, uh, I think this is a fantastic place to live and I think more, uh, St. Louis and so ought to embrace that.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I think it's under appreciated as well. What is it about the city that you love so much?

Dean Klinkenberg:

There are a lot of things that I appreciate about it. Uh, for one thing, like I love the particular part of the city where I live. I live just a couple blocks from a place called Tower Grove Park, which is an incredible English style walking park. Is a great place to mark the change of seasons. We've got a very diverse group of people who live in the area, our little business district, just a half a mile or so from our house has cuisines from around the world. So you can eat around the world, uh, uh, for a couple of weeks and not duplicate the anything that you've had. Um, and I like being in the middle of the country. It's easy to get to other places. It's an affordable place to live. people are friendly. Uh, you know, I've lived in some communities where it was really hard to, to get to know folks, especially if you hadn't grown up there. and that's just not the case at all in St. Louis. Uh, it's really easy to, uh, break into, friendship networks and be accepted into, into, into those communities. So there's a lot to like about life here and I love the change of seasons. yeah, well, that's really convenient for me, especially since a lot of my work is along the Mississippi. I can drive to the beginning or the end of the river in a single day, if I want to. It's a long day of 12 plus hours of driving, but it's possible to get to either end of the river and single day's drive.

Brad Shreve:

Well, and it doesn't surprise me that you're talking about driving 12 hours along the Mississippi river, because you really have a passion for that river. Do you wanna elaborate on that?

Dean Klinkenberg:

I'm sure. Right. It's sometimes it's a little hard to articulate exactly why it's gotten under my skin so much, but, you know, I went to college in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, which is a river town. And, uh, during those years I would head down to the river, um, to kind of calm myself down. I was pretty moody during those years I was out, but I wasn't especially comfortable being out yet. And I, I lived in a place that didn't have a big gay community and often felt isolated. Um, so going down to the river was a place that I could start to calm myself and think things through. And I really also got more interested in doing outdoors stuff. When I lived in that area, I'd hiked a lot in there. There are 500 foot tall Bluffs that lined the Mississippi up in that part of the river. And I used to hike in the Bluffs all the time. So it was just a great place to experience the outdoors when you're surrounded by. corn farms for hundreds of miles in either direction. You know, it's kind of this Oasis, this narrow strip of, uh, incredible beauty right in the middle of all that. Uh, so I think it's, you know, it's our Rocky Mountain.

Brad Shreve:

Now, when I read a novel, generally you can see the author in the novel. When I was reading, Keeping Secrets in St. Louis, I felt I was getting to know you personally. Was I?

Dean Klinkenberg:

Um, kind of, my, uh, protagonist Frank Dodge, there are aspects of his fictional life that overlap or were inspired by aspects of my own life. He's a travel writer and, basically abandoned previous career to become a travel writer, which is more or less my path as well, Um, so I, I think there's some of me and him. Yeah. I think over time, I've got four books in that series now. and I think with each book there's less and less of me and he becomes more and more, uh, um, a discrete identity, and grows away from me, which is fine because he does things that I would never do. but yeah, I, I th I think there is a fair amount of me in the core of his character.

Brad Shreve:

Something you just said made me think of some things that you had written both in your bio and also on your website, your life path You've been a professional bowler. You had college plans to study law or politics, but you end up studying psychology and becoming a professor. You did volunteer work a tremendous amount, but then you quit your career with no grand plan and you became a writer. You've you said that you have a wanderlust for travel that you developed at an early age. Would you say you have a one Wanderlei wander, which you say you have wanderlust toward life in general?

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah, I think for better or ill, like I think one of my defining characteristics is I have an insatiable curiosity about life, about people, about places. Um, and I never get tired of asking questions and trying to learn something new. and that's taken me in a lot of different directions, you know, professionally trying to make a living. It hasn't always been the best, in terms of a business decision. But, I just liked learning about things and meeting people and, uh, uh, and trying to understand why things are the way they are and you know, how we got to this place instead of that place, that those are burning questions that I never get tired of asking. I've always sort of had these competing drives in my life, but yeah, I, my family moved around a lot. When I was a kid, I went to four different grade schools. and there was some good things from that and some not so good things, but I think I sort of grew up feeling very rootless and not feeling like I belonged in any particular place, but at the same time, I was pretty adaptable. So I had pretty good skills to meet people and make connections and sometimes very quickly. Um, and as I've traveled more, I think those skills have just gotten better. But at the same time, there's always sort of been that desire to have a place to call it. So I'm always sort of fighting these competing drives one to get out on the road and explore and be free and wander and the other to stay home and water with tomato plants and, uh, and binge watch some Netflix. So

Brad Shreve:

I envy you. I've traveled a lot and I'm settled in Los Angeles and I love the city, but I don't feel like I have a home yet. I haven't found the place to call it that. So good on you for finding that. So of course, with your love for travel and, and the Mississippi River, you've written several travel guides and then 1919, or I'm sorry, 2014, you published your first novel. It was the first edition of Rock Island Lines. What made you decide to go the fiction route after doing what you did?

Dean Klinkenberg:

I wish I could say I had some great inspiration, but you know, it was kind of a practical decision, right? Travel guides are fun to work on, but they're not very lucrative financially. And I was looking for other ways to write that might make some more, you know, that might make, help me make some more money. and I had a friend, I have couple of friends who are really avid mystery readers and they said, oh yeah, they're try writing a mystery. And I kind of brushed it off for a while, but I'd never written fiction. Um, I'd written poetry and stuff like that, especially when I was young. Um, I just wasn't sure if I was going to, if I could really be any good at writing fiction or if I was even going to enjoy it. so I was, you know, on one of those long drives, I had ideas starting to bounce around in my head about what kind of story I might want to tell with the first book like that. and it turned out to be a lot of fun to write. It's uh, I get to make shit up, you know, that's like, I don't, I don't have to spend as much time researching every detail and making sure everything is precise. And I think I under estimated how much I enjoy telling stories and how much that format was really going to open up a new one. For me to dive into just narrative storytelling. So, yeah, I know, I think that first book was, uh, I'm very happy with it. It went through a couple of significant revisions and, you know, my husband was very nervous when he read the first draft he's he gets to be my, beta reader for every, every book fresh out. Uh, when it's for us to be finished and he was very nervous about, he was going to have to tell me, cause he's an avid reader, uh, and he's a tough critic, but he liked it. But, you know, he had some great suggestions to help me, fine tune and to help, with the storytelling. But, uh, I see, like right now I'm kind of stuck in a nonfiction mode, but I can imagine a time. And three or four years down the road where I'm writing mostly fiction. I'm not doing a lot of non-fiction anymore.

Brad Shreve:

So you, wrote several travel guides and then of course we had the Frank Dodge Mystery, and then you went back and you wrote some more travel guides. Do you see yourself writing more in the future? Now that you're kind of on a roll with Frank Dodge

Dean Klinkenberg:

Um, I'm trying to move away from the guidebooks cause you know, they're really time-intensive to keep current and you have to, stay on top of all of that, uh, to make those books useful. I combined a bunch of guide books into a single book. Uh, but next year I have to do a major revision of that one. especially now that we're kind of emerging from the pandemic just to get back out on the road and see who survived. Uh, with businesses are still around and I just kind of want to do less and less of that. I like writing about history and I like writing about places. It's, I'm less and less excited about, you know, telling people where to sleep and eat. Uh, so I can see less and less of that, but I have a couple of big nonfiction books that I still want to finish before I go fully into writing fiction. so like right now, I'm work working on a travel memory. Uh, I'm kind of hoping to finish a first draft by the end of June. Um, just dawned on me that we have, you know, the two of us have traveled to 36 or 37 countries. We've been lucky enough to do a lot of travel. Uh, and almost all of it's been trips for, you know, that were no longer than two weeks. And yet we had some incredible experiences.

Brad Shreve:

I think a memoir of your travels would be fascinating.

Dean Klinkenberg:

I hope other people think the same thing. So.

Brad Shreve:

when in your travel guides, I'm curious. I'm sure you have to put in the big tourist places like in St. Louis, you got to mention the arch. Does that feel compared to describing some of the lesser known places that are off the beaten path?

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah. So when it comes to some of the more famous places, my approach has usually been. To tell people more what to expect and maybe how to get the most from the experience or how to get some, how to go to a part of it that people don't know about. but everybody tries to do that. Yeah. All the travel writers look for those kinds of ankles. And it's hard to do, you know, for the 73rd time for, you know, the, uh, about the arch or whatever, but there are a lot of small museums and lesser known attractions that are fascinating places. And, uh, I love those just as much. There are a lot of small town museums that are kept going by. Volunteers, usually retired people, uh, who spend hour after hour, cleaning it up and putting together exhibits and trying to come up with ways to tell the stories of their communities. I love those places just as much. And, uh, I, I really, I tend to seek those out first when I'm on the road, so I don't get tired of visiting them.

Brad Shreve:

And my opinions too many people miss that.

Dean Klinkenberg:

And I don't, maybe this is your experience traveling, these days too. But you know, initially when we were traveling, I know we wanted to see the major sites. You know, if you're, you know, we went to the art museums to see the famous art pieces and all that stuff is great. I'm glad we did that, but I know with each trip I become a little less excited about spending my whole day bouncing around from museum, the museum. And I want to find a pub, like you say, to hang out and try to strike up conversations. look for ways to meet people who live there and connect with them and try to learn more about what their day-to-day lives are like.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, I absolutely loved San Francisco and whenever I have family and we have to do the touristy things and the pier what's the famous pier there.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Fisherman's Wharf.

Brad Shreve:

That's probably it,

Dean Klinkenberg:

We'll go with that and they can correct us later.

Brad Shreve:

You're right. It's the fisherman's Wharf and we always have to go and I gotta tell you, the Fisherman's Wharf is a big yawn. So there is a lot more off the beaten path. I think that is more interesting and too many people focus on the big things.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah. I mean, the nice thing is that those other places tend to be, uh, easy to get into because people don't wander that far off the beaten path. Yeah. So it's good for the rest of us who are willing to, but, uh, you, maybe we should keep those things. a secret. So we don't get over those places. Overrun.

Brad Shreve:

Keeping Secrets in St. Louis is the fourth novel and it is a prequel to the other three. And it's a good intro to Frank Dodge. why did you see the need to write a prequel to the whole story?

Dean Klinkenberg:

well, I thought I would try to confuse my readers by publishing a book that was set before the three they already read. So that was my, uh, just getting, uh, well, I, I thought there was, uh, I thought that the, I needed a little better intro to Frank Dodge. I like Rock Island Lines, but when I wrote that first book, I wasn't entirely sure where I was going with his character. I didn't have any grand, storylines in mind for books, two and three at that point. Uh, and I thought that there was some things I could have set up better in that first book. If I had been a little bit more. Future oriented when I was writing it. So like for one thing, I, you know, in that first book, it's not obvious that he's gay.

Brad Shreve:

Well, the first story that you wrote, Rock Island Lines I can't remember the year it first published. but I think it was 2014, but you, you rewrote it five years later and republished it Did you make it clear that he's gay when you wrote that? Or what type of changes did you feel you need to make?

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah. With that, that first book I did not work with an editor. so really the second edition was just ascended through the editing process and clean up some of the grammatical mistakes that I knew were in the first version of it. Uh, there were a few minor tweaks to the story. I didn't want to rewrite the whole story. Uh, I thought the story was fine. I just thought it needed polish. that it didn't have, it didn't have the same polish as the two books that came after it. And since that was, likely to be where people were going to start reading it, I felt like the quality needed to go up. If I was going to try to hang onto readers after the first book. So I sent it off to the editor and I said, here at fix all made all my mistakes, make this perfect.

Brad Shreve:

It's usually a good move to have an editor.

Dean Klinkenberg:

It is, he's done a great job on the books, you know, the subsequent books, but, uh, but yeah. it needed some Polish

Brad Shreve:

Tell us about Frank Dodge.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah. So, uh, Frank is, uh, as I mentioned, when we first meet him, he's kind of a mess. he's in the early stages of starting a second career, in the beginning, we don't really know a lot about what his previous career was. At the start of Keeping Secrets in St. Louis. He's excited because he finally has an assignment from a newspaper instead of just continually writing things on spec. He's got an actual assignment and he's going to have a decent pipeline. Um, but he doesn't have a lot of money. He's living in a shitty apartment in a dodgy neighborhood that pun, but yeah. Um, and he's, um, he has a lot going for him though. One of his skills is that he reads people well. and I think his skepticism serves him well. Um, I guess that's kind of where maybe he and I overlap a little bit. I have some of that same skepticism, uh, and he's also still got that wanderer. He's been through enough of, um, uh, enough challenges in life that he's at a point where he's trying to figure out really who he is and what he's supposed to be doing next. and we get to start working through that over the course of the following books. So the first three novels from Rock Island Lines up through Letting Go in La Crosse there is a story arc for Dodge that we learn more about what's happened in his past and the challenges that he's faced. And then he gets a chance to try to resolve some of that and move on.

Brad Shreve:

there's another important person in the novel. Frank's buddy, Brian Jefferson, who also conveniently happens to be a homicide detective. Do you want to share us a little bit about, Brian

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah. So Brian and, and Frank have been friends since, um, I guess what some people call middle school, but I grew up calling junior high school. Frank's family moved from Wisconsin to St. Louis at some point in his life when he was around 12 or so, I forget exactly what age now. And he went to a private Catholic school and that's where he met Brian Jefferson. And the two of them became fast friends and have stayed friends ever since. they're very different people. Uh, Jefferson is an African-American man. He's a little more conventional, um, a little more conservative in some ways. Um, but he, you know, partly I wanted, uh, another character to help justify having a travel writer solving crimes. Uh, so it was convenient to have a friend who was a homicide detective. But I think they are also such a good balance to each other. Uh, their personalities really balanced each other out. I imagine that's why they've stayed friends for so long is that they're they're so they have such complimentary personalities, they kind of need each other. So, yeah. And a lot of the books that kind of operate as a team, even though Dodge is the primary character. Sometimes they're more co-equal and how they go about solving a mystery.

Brad Shreve:

I will say Brian, being more conservative. I did get the feeling that he does keep Frank grounded.

Dean Klinkenberg:

yes. Frank needs somebody to help ground him. So,

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. I could see him all over the place if it wasn't for Brian Jefferson.

Dean Klinkenberg:

yeah.

Brad Shreve:

So you gave us a little bit about the story. Can you elaborate a little more on, uh, Keeping Secrets in St. Louis?

Dean Klinkenberg:

Sure. So, um, you know, at the, getting it, this book, um, Frank is excited that he has this assignment with the local newspaper. Uh, he's uh, been asked to write a profile of a museum that, uh, focuses on the history of ragtime, uh, in St. Louis St. Louis was a major center for the development and. A spread of rec type music in the early 19 hundreds. So this museum celebrates that and Frank is excited that he gets to write about it and he gets to the museum. And as soon as he walks in the door, there's chaos, uh, and he soon finds out that the museum. Um, most pressure, most treasured, uh, possession, uh, has disappeared, uh, handwritten manuscript, uh, a handwritten copy of the score for the entertainer by Scott Joplin. They had in their possession and it has just now disappeared. So, uh, he, uh, kind of, yeah, his, he feels his heart sank at that point because he also sees his, assignment in this great byline slipping away. and, uh, in talking with the director, uh, she ends up asking him to help figure out what happened. And she has her own motivations for wanting to do that, but she offers to pay him and that's good enough. Um, and as he starts digging around, naturally, he finds out that everybody, all the main characters have something they're trying to do. Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

well, one thing I found funny about it is Frank went to the museum to kind of write a fluff piece.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

He walked in at a convenient or inconvenient for the book, but an inconvenient time for everybody else that this document was stolen. just as he's getting there. And what I thought it was funny as the director is trying to stick with the fluff. piece and don't look behind the curtain in terms of what's going on, but she found it nearly next to impossible to do that.

Dean Klinkenberg:

He's just a little too persistent as it turns out. Uh, she thinks he's just like some, you know, hack reporter, I suppose, who is not really going to be able to do very much, but it turns out he's pretty. sharp.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. He wasn't let her off the hook. That's for sure.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Right.

Brad Shreve:

And the ragtime I, really found that interesting, you know, I think of St or think of Kansas city as jazz and blues, which I think most people are familiar with, but I didn't know about St. Louis being the center of ragtime. And that was around the turn of the last century.

Dean Klinkenberg:

right.

Brad Shreve:

So he gave me a little history lesson there.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Mission accomplished.

Brad Shreve:

Well, yes. And actually, I'm going to tell you probably stuff, you know, I had to look up it up because you had me so curious, which I guess is a good thing. I read about, Tom Turpin, who I'm sure you're familiar He wrote a ragtime piece in 1897 which I guess was popular. And then in 19 1900, he opened his own bar and brothel, and I always love it. That brothels were commonplace back then. people that are familiar with Omaha would probably find it interesting that around 1900, it was considered the. Sodom and Gomorrah of the Missouri river, which if you go there, if you go there now, it's nothing like that at all. Uh, but I found that when he opened this bar, he made St. Louis the capital of ragtime. That's basically how it happened. And I was wondering when I was done, have you considered writing a biography of him? Because I found them fascinating.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Wow. Ah, that is an excellent question. I have not, but I probably ought to put that on the short list of things to check into. I don't know how much material exists out there to really be able to bring his character life, but he was so important in that period in St. Louis, uh, his club was in a neighborhood called Mill creek Valley that has since been raised thanks to these misguided urban renewal plans. So the building where his club was, the Rosebud Cafe is long gone. But he looked like he had a pretty interesting life. Well, after the ragtime era came to an end. Um, so yeah, he seems like one of those larger than life personalities, that there should be a book about him.

Brad Shreve:

Well, if nothing else you could write a novel about that time period and have weave him into the story. Uh, he's he's been dead a while. I don't think he can sue you.

Dean Klinkenberg:

I hope not. Like, unless there's some kind of time travel, I don't know about you.

Brad Shreve:

That's for sure.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Okay.

Brad Shreve:

Now I told you I've spent some time in St. Louis. Uh, in fact, it's funny. The very first person I came out to was a friend, who I told her on a drive from St. Louis to Kansas city. because in that drive there was nothing else to do. but I learned to love St. Louis the few times that I'd been there and I agree that it's under appreciated. I do remember going to Dogtown and getting really drunk. I don't remember anything about it, except I thought Dogtown was a funny name and that I was there. I like the parks that were there. I never went up to the gateway arch, but to stand below. It is just when you see it on TV, you really can't understand how fascinating it is as to look up. It's an incredible structure. The other thing that I really enjoyed doing was shopping at union station, which sad to me I know is no longer like a shopping mall and what I liked about it as yeah. You had some of the traditional shops, but you had some really interesting unique stores in union station. And the reason I'm bringing this up is in your novel. It's brought up that downtown St. Louis has developed into an amusement park. and union station has been, the shops are gone, but they've added a Ferris wheel and an aquarium. And you see you coming across to me as the reader of a fiction novel from you. I was getting a disdain for what's going on downtown. Is that, is that right?

Dean Klinkenberg:

All right. I didn't realize I was so transparent about these things, so that, uh, but a good, it's good to know. Yeah. I have a brother who's an urban planner, an architect, and he's been a big influence on me. And, uh, I think it's a shame what's happened to our downtown area because we've kind of turned it into this place. Uh, I'll pick on where you live, kind of like, you know, downtown LA, where, you know, it's a place that you have to drive to, to do anything we've given up on the idea that it can be a neighborhood where people live. and there've been a few attempts here and there to try to bring back more housing units and that's some of that is working okay. But at the top are political, uh, and, uh, uh, civic leadership. There's still this attitude that the only thing that's going to save downtown is more things to bring in visitors and cars. Um, and I just think that's destroyed the fabric of it. Uh, it's just not, it's not a great place to live anymore and it needs to be. bring back the downtown area.

Brad Shreve:

I understand that though. But considering the number of downtowns across the, the country that have basically died, do you think there's in a way they've helped to save downtown St. Louis, even though it may not be what you want?

Dean Klinkenberg:

Um, I think they would say that they would argue that point. I'm not sure. It's always hard to argue, you know, the alternate universe. Uh, alternate timeline kinds of theories like this, but you know what I look at what's happened in Minneapolis, and, uh, it's night and day to, you know, what's happening. You're in downtown Minneapolis and the area around there. They have turned it back into neighborhoods. Therapy with the latest population is there, but tens of thousands of people live now in downtown Minneapolis. And that's happened mostly in the past 20 years where they've turned that around. Um, so they had a very different vision. Uh, that's that's working well. There's a lot of demand. I think there are a lot of people who want to live in walkable neighborhoods who don't want to have to get in a car to go everywhere. maybe not in California, but in the Midwest maybe, and maybe other parts of the country, I certainly would love to live in a place where I could walk everywhere. and I think that's a trend that's going to continue. I think people want their communities to be, more of a human scale and not just a place That you can drive through quickly.

Brad Shreve:

That is something I've noticed that you're seeing, downtown had died when everybody moved to the burbs and there is that desire. People have to move into the downtowns again, to develop a community there again, and to be able to walk and do things don't have to hop in the car and drive everywhere. And you mentioned Los Angeles, that's actually happening here, If anyone's been to Los Angeles and saw, downtown it's laughable for the size of the city. it went back and forth over the years. New York was bigger than LA was bigger. I think New York is bigger, but LA is not far behind, but they don't look anything like each other. Cause LA just spreads on forever with a tiny downtown But recently there's been a lot of development going on down there. Lot, lot more high rises going up though, still small in comparison, but a lot of people moving in down there and you have Targets and supermarkets and that sort of thing. So we're seeing some developments in downtowns across the country, I think. And hopefully St. Louis will become more what you would like to see.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Well, if they would just listen to me, you know, we could get this on track a lot sooner, so

Brad Shreve:

Isn't that always the case. I say, if people had just listened to me, the world would run so well. No, but I just can't convince them to do that.

Dean Klinkenberg:

I've tried.

Brad Shreve:

So we've seen four Frank Dodge books. Can we expect a number five and maybe more?

Dean Klinkenberg:

There will be more, um, I'm already outlining, uh, the basic, story I want to tell. And then I guess I have to call it the fifth book now. It's going to take place on a Steamboat cruise or riverboat cruise. Um, so I'm not going to say any more than that in case I ended up changing my mind and going a complete new direction, but yeah, I have an idea I've kind of mapped out the next three books of the stories that I want to tell in each of those. He's going to be with us for awhile.

Brad Shreve:

That's good to hear. I'm a very slow writer. I promised my readers that my next book would be out by now. And I have now learned never to make a promise to when a book will be coming out because I've really embarrassed. It it's going to be a little while

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah, it takes a

Brad Shreve:

in addition now, other than the greatest, the idea that I just gave you about writing a mystery that takes place in ragtime, have you considered any other types of novels or another series?

Dean Klinkenberg:

not really, not yet, but I can see at some point I'm going to want to branch out and I've had occasionally a lot of what I think about, uh, still revolves around the Mississippi or in one way or another. And I flopped, there might be some fun freestanding stories to try to tell, uh, in a, in a single novel, uh, I just don't know when I'd find the time to dig in and start doing that. Maybe know if I'm lucky enough to live, as long as my parents, you know, maybe I'll have time to tackle on some of those other books as well. But, but for now, it's just enough to get these nonfiction books done and try to keep Frank Dodge going. Okay.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I guess, focus on the ones you write being the best possible you can and not focus on getting more out.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah,

Brad Shreve:

And a lot of people, a lot of people could learn from that advice. But I didn't say that

Dean Klinkenberg:

I've always been more invested in quality than quantity. So.

Brad Shreve:

Now, going back to your, your wandering life. You said that after leaving college, you set out to make the world somewhat of a better place and you worked for people living in the margins, homeless people, people struggling with drug addiction, people living with AIDS. And you said after about a dozen years or so you had a career you mean towards middle management and you had enough and quit for a new path. Explain where the middle-management came into play in all of that. And what was going on during your altruistic endeavors?

Dean Klinkenberg:

well, so my career path, I was, uh, I was working in a research Institute. So my job was to write grants, to fund projects, and then write more grants to fund more projects, and then write more grants to fund more projects. Um, and I was pretty good at it. And I could see that. Working myself toward a particular place in the research world. But I also was seeing that the more successful I got at it, the more time I spent at my desk writing reports and doing personnel evaluations, um, and other kinds of administrative tasks. And I could see that my boss. I should be promoted up into some kind of leadership position within the Institute. So I was probably never going to be a university president if I stayed on there, but I could have lived, lived up to my first, my, my name and bed, the Dean of an academic Yeah. Unit somewhere. Um, and that's not the kind of work I want to do to do because of that, you know, wanderlust and that restlessness, that's always a part of me. I am just not well-suited to sit behind a corporate or academic desk for 60 plus hours a week, uh, and doing nothing else. It's now the ironic thing is of course, I spend lots of time sitting at a desk now while I write, but I still get to, I can take it anywhere. I want to, you know, I can take it with me on the road. and I think the other thing that probably fed into that, you know, I'm a, I'm a gay man who came of age, uh, along with AIDS. You know, I came out in 1983, I guess, 82. and within a short period of time stories about this new disease started to emerge. And I was pretty lucky. You know, I lived in a relatively small city in the Midwest. It took a while for AIDS to start taking a toll on my friends, uh, in that area. so I wasn't part of that first wave that devastated New York and San Francisco and places with big gay communities, but it was hard not to be affected by that. And I wanted to do something, you know, I felt like I, I had some responsibility, To do what I could to stem the tide of that. So I, I went, you know, I was volunteering for AIDS organizations when I was still in undergrad. Um, I was going to college classes as a guest speaker to give the homosexuality one-on-one talks. I used to call it, you know, the, um, and I think I merged so much of my personal life with my professional. Um, and that continued through grad school and into my academic career, you know, I think probably I just got burnt out by all that it was just, there wasn't enough separation between the two anymore. Um, and I'd been doing it long enough that, I was kind of losing steam, and needed to do something that was completely different and maybe slightly more uplifting. So there were a lot of things going on then, but thought that was all factoring into it.

Brad Shreve:

What gave you the balls to move forward?

Dean Klinkenberg:

Mm. that's a hard one to answer it. I thank you for giving me credit that it was an act of courage. Uh, You know, I felt like I was just at a point where I was going to have to do something, or I might slide down into a deep depression. It was sort of a way of preserving my mental health. I had to do something very different. I, I, I could see the signs. I was sending nasty emails to people that I should never have sent. I was getting in public arguments and, you know, in meetings. not often, but you know, I'm a very laid back guy. So you know what? I'm starting to scream at somebody in a public meeting, something is wrong and it's usually with me. Um, so there were all these signs that were just piling up the I was in a bad place. And, um, even though it was scary to think about giving up a secure job and my husband was a little worried about what I was gonna do. Uh, it just felt like I had to do something. And, that was the time to do it before I careened off the cliff. And God only knows what happens after that. So I think it was an act of self salvation, more than an act of courage.

Brad Shreve:

You still work a steady job other than just writing. Uh, but I I'm going to guess. And you, you don't have to get in your finances. I'm going to guess that it probably doesn't pay as much as when you were in middle management

Dean Klinkenberg:

Yeah,

Brad Shreve:

when you decided to move away from that full time and write as a How has that adjustment? Not having any steady income.

Dean Klinkenberg:

Terrifying. Uh, I've had to get, uh, I've had to really, um, hone my money management. luckily I have a very frugal mother who taught me a lot about how to do that, but I had to get much better. Uh, I had to sort of adjust my expectations about what kind of a lifestyle I thought I could support. And, you know, John and I, I think we're on the same page with this. Cause you know, he was a software developer and had a nice job doing that for many years and got sick. Um, and now he's a pro he's a fiber artist and he teaches weaving. So we have two artists in his household, uh, which means, you know, we're not exactly, buying gold toilets or anything like that. so we have to be very careful about how we manage money and just accept the fact that, you know, uh, in exchange for doing what we want to do, we have to give something up and that's something is we don't buy nice clothes. We buy new cars far less often than we might like to. We have a, an older house, but, uh, it's well taken care of and, uh, it's a, an affordable place to live. So, you know, we've just had to learn to be more frugal

Brad Shreve:

I have to ask one more thing about your background, professional bowling after high school, you wanted to be a professional, boller. How did that go?

Dean Klinkenberg:

it did not. Uh, that's just,

Brad Shreve:

kind of guessed that the, how was the process? How did that feel at that

Dean Klinkenberg:

So what happened was I was, uh, when I was in high school, I was one of the top bowlers in my age group, in the state of Minnesota. And, uh, uh, we had a circuit of, uh, tournaments where I won three tournaments in a year or something like that. And I was the bowl of the year for that organization. So I was, You know, feeling my oats, you know, I'm gonna be. and I actually told my parents, I was thinking about going on the, professional bowling instead of going to college and well that didn't go over very well. So, uh, I picked a college that had a, uh, a bowling program, uh, one of the better ones in the country. And my freshman year, I made the bowling team and I ended up with the highest single game score in the conference for that year. But otherwise was fairly mediocre. And then the second year, uh, I did not make the bowling team. we had a tryout system that our coach was very strict about and I just missed making the team and they went on to win the national championship that year. while I watched. And after that, I said, screw it. I'm done with the bowl. And I just, uh, I started focusing on school at that point. So I guess not helping, I should think that coach because by not giving me a pity spot on the team, it forced me to kind of reevaluate what I really wanted to do. And bowling suddenly became a lot less important.

Brad Shreve:

Well, we have reached the time. I'm sure you've been waiting for awkward questions, authors get, and as usual, I'm going to spin the wheel and we're going to see what comes out.

Dean Klinkenberg:

let's do it.

Brad Shreve:

Here's one. Will you promise not to ever have your characters involved with a woman?

Dean Klinkenberg:

Uh, you know, I think it's pretty safe to say that Frank Dodge is not going to ever have any romantic interest in a woman. So that's a pretty easy one to say yes. Um, Hmm. I don't know. I, I, people are so invested in keeping those characters pure aren't they,

Brad Shreve:

Oh, he may get a little, little adventurous.

Dean Klinkenberg:

you may never,

Brad Shreve:

I don't know. You never know what they're going to

Dean Klinkenberg:

after, you know, he is prone to drinking whiskey quite a bit. So who knows, like maybe there'll be some random night in a casino somewhere.

Brad Shreve:

there. You know, you never know what's going to happen. I know when I got drunk in Dogtown, that could have happened to me.

Dean Klinkenberg:

It's always a danger,

Brad Shreve:

again, my guest is Dean Klinkenberg and he is the author of the Frank Dodge mysteries. His most recent novel is Keeping Secrets in St. Louis, which is book I've lost track book number four,

Dean Klinkenberg:

correct? Or book number zero.

Brad Shreve:

or number zero. Yes, you're correct. That always makes it difficult when you do a prequel. Thank you so much, Dean, for being on the show. It's been a pleasure to have you

Dean Klinkenberg:

Thank you so much, Brad. This was a lot of fun.

Brad Shreve:

I enjoyed it as well.