its like walking out of Wal-Mart!
from the interview by Lynn Kaczmarek in the August/September 2000
issue of Mystery News
cold day in February Don Harstad sat down to write a book. Eleven
days later he had one the aptly-named, Anthony-nominated Eleven
Days. Harstad introduces the unsuspecting to Nation County Iowas
Deputy Sheriff Carl Houseman, and his sometime investigative partner,
Hester Gorse from the Iowa Division of Criminal investigation. Eleven
days is not just what it took to write, but it is also what it took
for Houseman and Hester to solve a multiple murder case that began
with a 911 call to the Nation County police dispatcher.
us, theyre killing everybody! Help!
on the scene at an old farmhouse, Houseman finds the caller gone and
the owner of the house dead and mutilated. At a nearby farm four more
victims are found. Remember the lines from Field of Dreams Is
this heaven? No, its Iowa? This is the other
Iowa the real one. In the real Iowa, people die for a lot of
reasons, only one of which is because other people kill them.
with unexpected action, wonderfully realistic characters, and snap-cracklin
dialogue, Eleven Days is a stunning debut. Carl Housemans first
person narration is terse, uncomplicated, and surprisingly funny.
I was easily drawn in, lovin every minute of it.
who is this lightning quick writer, this most witty of authors? Don
Harstad is just who you would expect after reading his books
a retired Deputy Sheriff of Clayton County, Iowa. He lives with his
wife, Mary, in Elkader. If youre a regular reader of Mystery
News, youll probably remember issue 174, August/September 1999,
where in their reviews of Eleven Days and Known Dead, respectively,
both Read Andrus and Harriet Stay sang the praises of this new and
seemingly under-appreciated writer. It was these reviews that prompted
me to pick up both books. (See what good stuff you can learn from
reading Mystery News?) And so, when Harstads newest book was
announced, I hightailed it to the phone to set up an interview.
the comments that Harstads books can be funny, theyre
funny in that off-kilter Fargo kind of way. Not that the books are
like Fargo; Harstads stories are much better, but there is that
ironic, violent twist to them.
this: Houseman and two other cops are sitting on a marijuana patch
waiting for the owner to come water the plants. The cops are down
in the patch, Houseman is up on a bluff providing back up. Muffled
shots and a frantic Be careful, they got machine guns!
draw him down into the patch.
reached back into the trunk and pulled out an old rubberized green
rain jacket and put it on. Thatd help. SHOT? I fumbled with
the little first-aid kit theyd given us. Id need that.
I looked at the ballistic vest in the trunk. It was white. Its strap-on
carrier was white. And, as a joke, Id drawn a series of concentric
circles over the middle in red marker. It was too hot to wear on days
like this, so I kept it in a garbage bag in the trunk. I hesitated
the complete interview in the August/September 2000 issue of Mystery