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Without words, without writing and without books, there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity. – Hermann Hess

William Kent Krueger is a rarity. He speaks as well as he writes.

Dressed in a pink golf shirt and blue jeans, Krueger wears a small paunch and an even smaller gold earring as he tells what it’s like to write best-selling books.

His demeanor is almost elf-like, but he stands at least 5-9 and so it would be inaccurate to describe him as something from a Tolkien story. Yet there definitely is an impish side to the Midwesterner, 64, who now lives in the Twin Cities.

Krueger toured a good part of South Dakota last week, with stops in Sioux Falls, Chamberlain, and points beyond, leading up to the state’s Festival of Books in Rapid City and Deadwood. “Ordinary Grace,” his compelling novel about a teen’s spiritual journey in 1961, was selected as this year’s choice for One Book South Dakota.

When I first saw the author’s name, I admit to being slightly put off. Oh great, I thought, another writer who uses all three names to identify himself, not that this practice is limited to writers. But whenever I read that a Mr. Three Names is coming to town, I always wonder: Isn’t it a bit pompous? Why is it necessary to trumpet all three of your names for heaven’s sake?

William Kent Krueger didn’t explain why, but he did poke fun at the practice, and in doing so, disarmed me and anyone else with a slightly skeptical bent. And, if you can confess that a mid-life crisis brought back some ’60s tendencies, you cannot be all bad. Besides, he said, call me Kent.

Did I mention that the man can write? He is perhaps best known for his series of mystery books featuring Cork O’Connor, which examine, among other things, race prejudice and how the cultures “interface.”  Cork is of Irish and Ojibwe ancestry, creating for him questions and conflicts. These issues are real for Krueger, too, and were a key reason he wrote “Ordinary Grace,” a book that explores wrenching change for a 13-year-old boy. Krueger calls the book “the best thing I’ll ever write.”

The author had this advice for his audience and their children: Turn off the computer, the iPad, and all those devices for one hour and give yourself over to the reading of a book.

“Our souls are hungry. We hunger for quiet, where great stories can find a home.”

Sept. 30, 2015