Earlier this year I was in Elkader, Iowa for the premiere of my play "The Accidental Hit-Man Blues." The Opera House Players were amazing hosts, not only to me but to the play. After one performance I met a gentleman named Don Harstad. He was introduced to me as "our resident novelist." He had some nice things to say about the show and we discussed various aspects of storytelling.
A few days later, before I left to drive home to Canada, I was given a bag of books, four novels by Donald Harstad. Upon arriving home I added them to the books in my reading pile.
Recently, I finally made enough progress with my reading pile to start on the Harstad books. I am currently about two chapters from the end of his first novel, "Eleven Days" and holy crap is it riveting.
Donald Harstad is the Joseph Wambaugh of the Midwest. He's an ex-cop who seriously knows his stuff, plus he's a gifted and intriguing storyteller. I am loving this book, as disturbing as parts of it may be. It's crime drama; it's supposed to be disturbing. Harstad finds just the right balance, though. It's not so disturbing that I want to stop reading. I'm drawn into the hunt for the killer, not only for the thrill of the story but, honestly, I will feel better if this guy is caught. I have friends that live near where the story is set.
Yeah, I know. It's fiction. My friends are safe from the fictional killer. But Harstad smoothly mixes his fictional Nation County with real-world Iowa. At a couple of points when reading the book, I've thought, "Hey, I know exactly where that is. I've been there." (I usually only do that with Robert J. Sawyer's books.)
Do yourself a favour. Track down a Donald Harstad novel and read it. You won't be able to put it down.