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In new book, Two Harbors is scene for terrorism plot

Author Dennis Herschbach is a former teacher at Two Harbors High School. His latest novel is set in Two Harbors and the surrounding area. (Submitted photo)

Beginning as a short story that has progressed into a full-length novel, author Dennis Herschbach has weaved together life experiences and outside research to produce a book called "Convergence at Two Harbors." The story involves three characters whose lives are thrown together by a threatened terrorist attack on the ore docks in Two Harbors.

Hershbach's fourth book uses Lake County as the backdrop of the story. He said his experiences here shaped the characters.

There's Deidre Johnson, a female sheriff who battles sexism and stereotypes to achieve her position, influenced by Herschbach's teaching career at Two Harbors High School, where he taught biology for 34 years.

"She's a composite of some of the students I've had," Herschbach said.

Another character, David Craine, much like Herschbach, is a retired teacher who buys a boat as part of the grieving process after his wife dies. Herschbach began his writing career as grief therapy in the wake of his first wife's death.

The third character is based on people he encountered during three mission trips to Honduras. During his travels, he discovered that Palestinians were the largest immigrant group in Honduras, and that most of the families had immigrated during the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s. In Herschbach's novel, the character Zaim travels from his home in Honduras to find his ancestral roots in Palestine.

While Herschbach spent considerable time researching Palestinian customs and culture as well as FBI protocol concerning terrorist attacks, most of the novel involved writing down and making sense of memories.

"A lot of the writing comes from personal experience," he said.

Herschbach, who now resides in Sartell, in central Minnesota near St. Cloud, is a native of northeastern Minnesota.

After his wife died in 2005 from cancer, he wrote a poem about their life together and the grieving process. When his grief counselor asked if she could use the poem as an example in some of her other sessions, he agreed. His writing career grew from there.

After publishing two poetry books, "Grief Journey" and "South First and Lake Front," Herschbach moved on to prose. He published his memoir, "Brown Sugar Syrup and Jack Pine Sand," in 2010 and it won the Northeast Minnesota Book Award for Best Memoir that year. "Convergence at Two Harbors," his first published fiction work, began as a short story he submitted for a contest.

North Star Press is based out of St. Cloud and focuses on publishing local authors who are usually writing about Minnesota places.

Herschbach's book, a thriller, is categorized under Minnesota fiction, an umbrella term that covers all fiction books North Star Press publishes that take place in Minnesota, Corinne Dwyer, owner of North Star Press, said. The focus ensures local interest in the novels. The main setting of Two Harbors, a chase scene at Gooseberry Falls State Park, and a hideout in Brimson are all aspects of the story Lake County natives can relate to.

"We encourage the authors to use the names of highways ... real towns ... real places," Dwyer said. It helps reader keep a picture in their heads as they read along, she said.

The jump from biology teacher to published author is a significant one, but Herschbach found the transition natural once he sat down and started writing.

"I have always been a very good writer, but I'd never written creatively. I learned on the fly," he said.

He cites Minnesota poet Ruth Wahlberg as his mentor and the editor of his memoir as a great influence on his somewhat drastic career change. After publishing "Grief Journey," he joined the League of Minnesota Poets, of which he is now vice president, and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. He also is a member of Lake Superior Writers group, where he and fellow area writers gather to share and critique each their work.

There will be a release party for Herschbach's new novel at 2 p.m. June 23 at The Pub in Two Harbors. Herschbach will describe the novel and give insight into how he wrote it and shaped the characters. "Convergence" is currently available via online orders and in e-book format, but the first hard copy sales, at $14.95 each, will begin at the release party.

"It's a joy for me to be coming back to Two Harbors," Herschbach said. "I just hope people will come and have a good time at The Pub"

"Come in and have a soda or two, or something stronger," he said. "And listen to a bit about the characters of the book and enjoy the people that are there."