by Austin Gerth
Bestselling thriller author Brian Freeman will be visiting three area libraries to give a slideshow presentation called “Stride’s Duluth,” about the real-life Duluth locations he has used in his series of novels about the character Jonathan Stride, a Duluth police lieutenant.
Presentations will be held at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the North Branch Area Library; 10:30 a.m. Feb. 25 at the Princeton Area Library; and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Cambridge Public Library.
Freeman’s tour will give his fans insight into the way he writes. He patterns the environments in his books on real places and does extensive research to make his narrative environments feel authentic. His website calls them “his ‘you are there’ settings.”
“I go up to Duluth and I scout locations for my books much like a film director,” Freeman said of his process.
He calls his presentation a “murderous travelogue,” showcasing the real world spots he has appropriated as staging grounds for the action in his novels.
“I showcase some of the creepiest spots that I’ve used in my books,” Freeman said.
Freeman has made use of some of the more famous Duluth spots, like Canal Park, in his books, but he said one of the most interesting Duluth locations he’s used is Graffiti Graveyard, which is a cave-like space beneath Interstate 35 where artists have spray painted art over much of the concrete walls.
“Even a lot of Duluthians don’t know about it and don’t know where it is,” he said.
Freeman feels Duluth has the right combination of environmental elements for a thriller. He said there’s “something about the nature of the architecture … those kind of steep San Fransisco-style streets.”
Freeman’s most recent book is “The Night Bird,” which follows another character of his, detective Frost Easton. The Frost Easton series takes place in San Fransisco. “Marathon,” Freeman’s next novel about Jonathan Stride, will be published on May 2.
Freeman has been publishing novels for 12 years, but his love of writing came much earlier. He has earned prestigious awards for his psychological thrillers, which have been sold in 46 countries and 20 languages.
“Writing books for a living has been what I wanted to do my whole life,” Freeman said.
Freeman became serious about writing after an eighth-grade composition teacher noticed his budding talent and encouraged him to write during her class.
As a reader, Freeman is drawn to more than just thrillers. He cited James Michener as an author he admires, and said that Michener’s densely researched novels influence the way he crafts his suspenseful books, despite the difference in genre.
“That’s not what I write,” Freeman said, “but that approach to the character is what I bring to the thriller. … I write very emotional thrillers.”
Although Freeman has found enough inspiration in Duluth to help power over a decade of books, he wonders whether the city appreciates the attention he’s paid it over the years in his crime novels.
“I expect the Duluth mayor to start slipping me brochures about Mankato,” he said.
For more information about Freeman’s author tour, visit ecrlib.org.