|Back in 1971, when Dennis
Frahmann graduated from Mercer (WI) High School, he was eager to escape
the lakes and loons of Northern Wisconsin. Little did he anticipate
that forty years later those same things would inspire a novel.
Frahmann’s new novel, "Tales from the Loon Town Cafe," is clearly
inspired by the northwoods of Wisconsin. Careful readers will see echoes
of everything from the once infamous Silver Street in Hurley, WI to the
stately old theater in Ironwood, MI to the giant loon mascot outside
Mercer, WI. But at the same time, the small fictional town of Thread and
the nearby community of Timberton create a unique world, inhabited by
an uncommon set of characters.
Q: What inspired you to write a novel set in this area?
A: A few years ago, I rediscovered an author named Edna Ferber who is
too often neglected today. She wrote such well-known novels and plays as
"Showboat," "Giant," and "Dinner at Eight." In 1934, she published
"Come and Get It," which was clearly inspired by the lumbering days of
Hurley. Ferber spent some lengthy time in Hurley, staying at the
long-lost Burton House, researching the area and talking to old
lumberjacks. As I read the novel, it was as though I was again walking
Silver Street, and that sparked me to think about what the heirs to
those old lumbering barons might be up to 50 years later.
Q: But isn’t much of the novel more about the eccentrics of this small town than about the heirs to the old lumber fortunes?
A: As I began to draft out the story, I became much more interested in
the rhythms of small town life, and the people who create that beat. So
as I explored how the lumber heirs might now spend their vacations in
northern Wisconsin plotting new ways to make money, I begin to think
about the people who would be affected. As I did that, their stories
took over. They were so much more interesting and life-affirming.
Q: So why is the book set in the 1980s?
A: I wanted to put some distance between today’s events and the stories
I was trying to tell. By setting the novel in the ‘80s, I was placing
it squarely in the go-go spirit of the Reagan presidency when big ideas,
like the resort scheme that drives the novel’s plot, were possible. It
also allowed the story to leverage emerging Native American rights in
areas like fishing and gambling.
Q: Would you ever come back to northern Wisconsin to open a restaurant,
like your novel’s narrator? I know part of your past including being a
restaurant reviewer in the Twin Cities and that you once worked in the
kitchens of a northwoods resort.
A: Curiously, when I left Wisconsin for college and then graduate
school in New York City, I thought I would never return to a small town
like Mercer. My career was spent, first in journalism and then in high
tech marketing, in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and New York. But I just
recently retired and moved to a very small resort town on the central
coast of California called Cambria. It was once the butter making
capital for San Francisco, but now is a seaside getaway. In a way, I
guess I went back to my small town roots.
Q: If people are interested, where can they buy the book?
A: It is available as a trade paperback or an ebook on amazon.com.
Ebook versions can also be ordered through iTunes and other book
suppliers. Book stores can also order copies.