Author John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers works two tough cases


Bestselling author John Sandford gives quirky renegade cop Virgil Flowers, an agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, his ninth solo leading role in Escape Clause. Flowers started as a supporting character in Sanford’s popular “Prey” series, whose lead, Lucas Davenport, is actually Virgil’s boss.

Virgil is on the case when two rare Amur tigers are stolen from the Minnesota Zoo, and he’s sure that their internal organs are going to be illegally harvested for use in black market Chinese medicine. And if looking for catnappers isn’t enough, Virgil is dealing with his girlfriend’s sister, who has gotten on the bad side of some bad guys as she tries to expose the abuse of illegal immigrant workers at a local factory.

Sandford — the pseudonym of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp — says in press materials that his newspaper career prepared him for being an author and a mystery writer — particularly in character development and realistic scene setting.

“The practice of writing every single day, and being edited every day, really helped,” he says. “As a journalist, I interviewed people, and you begin to feel different rhythms in speech, and you can use those things to help carve out a character. I also spent four years as an editor, and so I learned to spot and fix others’ writing, and so more easily spot the soft spots in my own.

“The most valuable thing about journalism, though, was the store of images you build up: what a shooting scene looks and sounds like, how cops talk. I occasionally talk to young would-be writers. I tell them that after they get out of school, they should consider the possibility of joining either the Army or a police force, or becoming a journalist, simply to gather images.”

Sandford’s book tour brings him to Dallas for a talk, question-and-answer session and book-signing at 3 p.m. Saturday at Half Price Books, 5803 E. Northwest Highway, Dallas; 214-379-8000.

Celeste Williams

Escape Clause

  • By John Sandford
  • G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $29
  • Audio: Penguin Audio, $40; narrated by actor Eric Conger.