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  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Gerald Kramer wrote about murder at a college campus

  • A regional university in a small Midwestern town is the scene of  two horrific murders in four days in “The Dean’s List,” a new mystery written by Gerald Kramer, Pittsburg.

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  • A regional university in a small Midwestern town is the scene of  two horrific murders in four days in “The Dean’s List,” a new mystery written by Gerald Kramer, Pittsburg.
    “I started this book 20 years ago because I found the university environment to be underutilized in mystery novels,” he said. “All campuses are filled with characters who would easily fit into the genre.’
    Kramer knows that from personal experience. Originally from Illinois, he was a faculty member and administrator at Pittsburg State University for 12 years, before  leaving in 1983 to go to the University of Wisconsin at Platteville. He taught at Northwest Missouri State from 1987 until  his retirement in 1999.
    “I would think that anyone who worked at or attended PSU, the University of Wisconsin or Northwest Missouri State would be interested in this book because there’s a little bit I take from everybody,” he said.
    On the other hand, he denies that any character  is directly based on an actual person at PSU or elsewhere, though his main character, Roger Holt, is a  little bit like his younger self.
    “I taught management like my protagonist,” he said.
    Also like the author, Holt loves teaching but doesn’t enjoy being an administrator. However, he doesn’t have much of a choice when he is pressured to become interim dean of business following the violent and humiliating death of the previous dean.
    Kramer devoted a lot of thought and research to the dean’s death from poison he ingests during a party on the university grounds.
    “He staggers inside to the faculty men’s restroom, falls in front of the urinal and dies,” Kramer said.
    Meanwhile, Roger Holt and some of his colleagues are at a local bar.
    “One of the women suggests they go back to the campus to the party, and when they get there, Roger realizes he’s had a lot of beer and heads for the faculty men’s restroom,” Kramer said. “He has trouble opening the door because the body is in front of it.”
    When Holt finally does get the door open, he sees the body, runs out, throws up and finally is able to summon the local police.
    It’s the beginning of a nightmare for Holt, with the pressures of trying to serve as interim dean and hearing a veiled threat from a radical student group that wants to do away with requirements for class attendance and demanding individually tailored syllabi.
    “That’s something that actually was going on back in the 1990s,” Kramer said.
    A particularly obnoxious student leader becomes the second murder victim.
    “He’s bludgeoned to death just off the campus,” Kramer said. “That’s two murders in four days, and Roger is out of his mind.”
    Page 2 of 2 - It doesn’t help that a local police detective informs Holt that he may “know something he doesn’t know that he knows” and could be the killer’s next target. Then a serious attempt is made on his life.
    “There’s a real confrontation on almost the last page,” Kramer said.
    The only bright spot is that Holt, divorced and lonely, moves toward a tentative romance.
    “I put  in that subplot because I like a little romance, a little sex, in a story,” Kramer said.
    But, the author added, he doesn’t turn up the heat too far.
    “It’s PG13,” he said.
    Since the book was published by Xlibris around three weeks ago, the author has been calling up libraries and book stores.
    “Hastings is going to order it, and so is the Pittsburg Public Library,” Kramer said.
    The book is also available online.
    He’s also working on his third book, which will focus on two characters who appeared in his debut novel, “Vanderbilt Reef,” which was published around six months ago.
    He loves Pittsburg, enjoys volunteering for Wesley House and thinks that writing fiction, while draining, is a lot of fun.
    “It’s not typical for somebody to write his first book when he’s in his 70s, but I don’t think I’m typical,” Kramer said.
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