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  • Patrick's People - Newfound novelist

  • Gerald “Gerry” Kramer has been everything from a college professor and administrator to a welder and census taker.

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  • Gerald “Gerry” Kramer has been everything from a college professor and administrator to a welder and census taker.
    Now, inspired by his love of Alaska and his fascination with a tragedy at sea, Kramer is a novelist. “Vanderbilt Reef: Finding Daniel” has just been published by Xlibris.
    In it, the author places a fictional character aboard the Princess Sophia, a Canadian Pacific liner that became grounded on Vanderbilt Reef on Oct. 24, 1918, and sank the following day. All aboard, somewhere between 343 and 370 people, were lost. It was the worst wreck, in terms of verifiable fatalities, on the North American west coast.
    Kramer said that he and his wife, Margaret, love Alaska and visit it yearly.
    “Every little town you go to has a string band or folksinger,” he said. “We would go to outdoor salmon bakes and they’d sing sad stories about the wreck of the Princess Sophia.”
    He had wanted to write something about Alaska, and gradually developed the character of Daniel Summers, raised by a wealthy aunt from the age of 10, who leaves college with a friend and heads off for the Klondike Gold Rush. He stays there until the age of 38,
    occasionally writing to his aunt, who lives in Kansas City.“Then Daniel gets on the Princess Sophia,” Kramer said. “There’s something about Alaska that he can’t stay.”
    Daniel dies in the wreck and his aunt sends an investigator to Alaska to trace his story. The first man she sends eats a bad fish and dies of food poisoning.
    “I’ve always wanted to kill somebody off that way,” Kramer said.
    Years later, the aunt, wanting closure before her own life is over, sends another investigator, Alex Bodine, to find out what happened to Daniel.
    “He finds some leads and he does learn what happened,” Kramer said. “Bodine finds that the story did not end with the Princess Sophia, though Daniel did die.”
    He loves mystery novels and there is a mystery here.
    “But this is not Agatha Christie,” Kramer said. “You know pretty much who the villains are, and that’s what so frustrating because they’re almost untouchable.”
    He’s now marketing “Vanderbilt Reef” as well as contending with the other books that are clamoring for his attention.
    “I’ve got three or four books in my head,” Kramer said.
    There will be a follow-up to “Vanderbilt Reef,” focusing on a Danish man who is a minor character in that book. Then there’s another book, set at a regional university, that he’s worked on, put away and brought back out for several years.
    At the beginning of this book a college dean dies what Kramer calls a violent, humiliating death in a men’s restroom. However, he’s hit a snag involving the time the dean ingests poison and the onset of symptoms.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I’ve about got it worked out,” Kramer said. “I’ve been reading up about poisons on the Internet, and the KBI will probably investigate me.”
    He said that he intends to continue to self-publish his books because of the length of time it takes traditional publishers to go through the process of reading, editing and finally publishing a manuscript.
    Originally from Moline, Ill., Kramer worked in a factory for five years after high school.
    “I got scholarships based on writing, of all things, and went to college,” he said.
    He eventually earned three degrees from the University of Iowa.
    “I didn’t get serious about life until I was in my 40s and I started teaching,” Kramer said.
    He taught at the University of Wisconsin - Platteville, was a faculty member and administrator at Pittsburg State University for 12 years and retired 13 years ago from Northwest Missouri State. He also taught 42 online courses for the Missouri higher education system.
    “I told them last April I wasn’t going to do it any more,” Kramer said. “I finished ‘Vanderbilt Reef’ in five or six weeks after that, and I’d been working on it for five years.”
    He has done a lot of other writing over the years, including articles for professional and scholarly publications. Fiction, he said, is more draining and a lot more fun.
    “I really enjoy sitting down at the typewriter, it’s just fun,” Kramer said. “I wish I’d started earlier, but I don’t think I had the sand to do this earlier.”
    “Vanderbilt Reef: Finding Daniel” is available at www.xlibris.com, www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

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