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home : columnists : columnists May 24, 2016

1/24/2013 11:11:00 AM
Along the Way...

The assassin for the Colombian drug cartel aimed the gun and the victim fell into the pit. It had been previously dug by a backhoe as the gravesite for a sick horse.

It wasn't the first human body dumped in there.

It was on a horse farm near Cannon Falls.

This scenario is part of a book written by crime novelist, Christopher Valen, who has won many awards for his series featuring St. Paul Homicide Detective John Santana.

I met Christopher through e-mail interviews as I was trying to find a speaker to visit the Cannon Falls TRIAD - citizens and law enforcement partnership. He explained that he loves visiting the local Cannon River Winery because the winemaker, Vincent Negret is from Colombia just like Christopher's wife.

But the key point was: Cannon Falls is actually referred to in his third novel!

He explained: "A few scenes in Bad Weeds Never Die take place at a Paso Fino horse ranch modeled after a ranch in Cannon Falls."

This immediately caught my attention because we have had such a ranch for the past 25 years...Spirit Song Paso Finos. To surprise the author, I e-mailed back our website: www.paulrosie.com with our farm on it.

Christopher responded: "I didn't realize...when I was researching the third book, I needed a ranch/farm where Paso Finos were bred in Minnesota and found Spirit Song in Cannon Falls. So my wife and I drove by one day, and then I 'fictionalized' the farm in the novel. It plays a key role in the story."

OK. So let's take a glimpse at his novel...and the role Cannon Falls has in it. He writes: "The sun moved in and out of darkening clouds as (detective) Santana drove south on Highway 52, past the huge Pine Bend Oil Refinery, and through a flat landscape... to rural fields of soybeans and stalks of tall corn..." (we have that).

Turning off the highway about three miles from the farm on to the county road which was narrow and curving, (we have that) there was "...a windbreak of evergreens planted along the end of the pasture..." (We have that.) As he drove up the circular driveway (we have that)... he saw a woman riding on a beautiful black Paso Fino." (We have that!)

Here's what we don't have:

Detective "Santana recalled that Colombians liked to bury things of value. Whenever a cartel kingpin was knocked off, the first thing the new leader did was dig up the yard and tear up the floors and walls of the former leader's home, looking for treasure."

When setting up the scene for the murders, the author describes the method a vet uses to euthanize an animal, and the backhoe that digs the grave.

The strange part is that this book was being written in 2010. That's the year we had to "put down" one of our horses because of illness. And we decided to bury him on the farm so we needed to use a backhoe to dig the grave. I've got a video on Youtube about our memory of him. But that's all that is buried there folks!

I'm looking forward to meeting the author when he visits Cannon Falls this spring.

Until then, a friend, Susan, loaned me some other crime novels written by another Minnesota author, John Sandford. I opened Storm Prey, also from 2010, and to my surprise I read about "a horse ranch thirty miles south of St. Paul...40 acres...round gravel driveway..." where two men who had stolen about $1 million in drugs went to hide it, but were executed by a hired killer near the horse barn.

It seemed to me that this was all getting kind of creepy!

I was telling about this "literary connection" to one of Cannon Falls' police officers and he just shook his head and said, "Now I suppose we'll have to get a shovel and come out and dig."

(Well, I've got a garden that could use some work!)

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