Cloquet River Press (CRP) began as a personal response to the dearth of publishing opportunities for new writers. Beginning with the first draft of my debut novel, The Legacy in 1990, I began a journey into the incomprehensible world of literary agents, publishers, distributors and bookstores. These early frustrations were profiled in two articles which appeared in the Writer’s Journal (November/December 2002 and March/April 2007).After teaming up with a small local cooperative press to publish The Legacy in October of 2000, I toured bookstores and public libraries promoting the book. Despite modest success, I continued to search for publishing opportunities. I was unable to secure an agent or larger publisher to handle my writing projects. In February of 2002, I acquired the rights to The Legacy from my former publisher. I also purchased the remaining stock of the novel. Unable to find a successor publisher, my wife Rene’ and I formed CRP in April of 2002 as a vehicle to publish, market and distribute The Legacy.
CRP began publication by launching two collections of my work: Ordinary Lives (short fiction), and River Stories (essays). In 2002, CRP published my second novel, a tale of love, the law and choices made, Pigs, A Trial Lawyer’s Story, to resounding success. Another collection of essays regarding life on the Cloquet River, Doc the Bunny and Other Short Tales, followed in 2004. The success of my earlier work allowed the publication of Suomalaiset: People of the Marsh, a historical novel of immigration, the mines, logging and shipping industries of NE Minnesota, in 2005.
Given the strong regional readership of CRP’s books, CRP approached local writer Susanne Kobe Schuler about entering into the cooperative publication of her debut memoir, Back of Beyond , a collection of stories from the 1940’s and 1950’s set in Ely, Minnesota. The book was launched on February 1, 2007 to much acclaim, making it the first “non-Munger” book in the CRP catalog.
After two years of research and writing, my fourth novel, a contemporary first-person story of Esther DuMont, a 28-year old African American nurse from the Apostle Islands who falls into methamphetamine addiction, was released on April 15, 2007. Esther’s Race is rapidly becoming a regional treasure in its own right.
In March of 2009, Mr. Environment: The Willard Munger Story, a biography of legendary conservationist/legislator Willard Munger was published. The book has been hailed as a primer of Minnesota 20th century politics and has received high praise and accolades during its short time in bookstores.
Laman’s River, a murder mystery set in Grand Marais and Duluth, Minnesota, and Central Montana, was launched in March of 2012 at Teatro Zuccone in Old Duluth. Grammy award winning musician John Ely and his pal, Paul Imolte (of the Tarveys and Ring of Kerry) kept our toes a tapping during the event.
Stories from both River Stories and Doc the Bunny were incorporated into Black Water, with many of my essays from childhood excised for later use in a memoir. Ordinary Lives was reissued as well with a few new stories included in the second edition.
A sequel to Suomalaiset set in WW II Finland, Karelia, and Estonia, Sukulaiset: The Kindred was released with a grant from Finlandia National Foundation in 2014. The release party included Finnish themed music from Diane Jarvi. The book reprises the character of Elin Gustafson as she negotiates the horrors of Stalinist Russia and the Holocaust.
Sukulaiset was followed by a legal thriller, Boomtown, a story of environmental terrorism and loss. Noted Duluth musicians Bill and Kate Isles provided music at the book launch.
A final installment in my Finnish American trilogy, Kotimaa: Homeland was released in 2019 with kind assistance from a Finlandia National Foundation grant. Karl Sundquist was the music for the book launch and debuted a new song, “The Ballad of Olli Kinkkonen” based upon my poem of the same title. Kotimaa is both the conclusion of Anders Ahomäki’s immigrant story and a contemporary tale of modern immigration to Finland and is one of my personal favorites.
In 2020, amidst COVID, CRP released my second collection of short fiction, Kulkuri (Vagabond), which includes a novella, “The Angle” set in NW Minnesota. It’s, I think, one o f the finest pieces of writing of my career.
This fall, a project that has been four years in the making, Duck and Cover: Things Learned Waiting for the Bomb, a memoir set in Duluth during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, will be launched at the Historic Theater of the North in Duluth’s Fitger’s Complex. Once again, Bill and Kate Isles will be providing the tunes.
Stay tuned. There’s more to come!
Mark Munger (owner)