First-time novelist draws inspiration from experience, short stories for his first crime novel – Twin Cities


Her fantasies were as worn as her broken body. Building the pink room to live the things he had only dreamed of seemed like someone else’s bad idea. He had no interest in the girl like that. She was no genius. No sex goddess. He needed a sex goddess now like he needed a caged elephant.

– Excerpt from “And there he kept her”

Joshua Moehling (Courtesy of Chris Herzig)

Josh Moehling, program manager for Medtronic, had been working on a novel for 10 years. A few agents told him the book had structural problems, but he didn’t know how to fix it, and the manuscript ended up under his bed along with his two previous books that hadn’t gone anywhere.

Then he read the story of a man who shot two teenagers on the steps of his house in a small town in Minnesota because he thought he had been robbed.

“My book was not inspired or based on these murders,” Moehling said. “But the script made me ask questions that led to the crime at the center of my book. I was thinking about this guy. He got to the point where he was taking matters into his own hands. He sat waiting children. I wondered how it had come to this. What would happen to an old man who was a victim but could not call the police for help? Why? What did he get escaped?

Like other authors who write to answer their own questions, Moehling (MOW-ling) eventually found a way to complete the mystery novel that would become “And There He Kept Her,” a tense story about Emmett Burr, a sexual predator. elderly living in fictional Sandy Lake, Minnesota, and Ben Packard, a former Minneapolis police officer who moved there to escape his memories of his lover’s death. Packard naively assumes the town doesn’t know he was gay, but everyone does.

When Burr confronts teenage boys Jesse and Jenny who sneak into his house one rainy night to steal his drugs, he shoots the boy and confines the girl to the Pink Room, a place he built years earlier to perform. his fantasies with chained women. Three victims ended up buried in his garden.

Now Burr is old and obese, taking strong medication to ease the searing pain in his legs. He confines Jenny to the pink room, but her fantasies died years ago and now he doesn’t know what to do with her.

Deputy Ben Packard, acting as town sheriff because the incumbent is undergoing treatment for cancer, is the cousin of the captured girl’s mother. She reveals that Jenny has type I diabetes and has no insulin. The girl probably has about three days before she goes into a coma.

Burr feels Jenny is harder to care for than a baby. But he tries to accommodate her, going to a library for the first time in his life to get her a book and buy some insulin. But he won’t take the chains off.

Then Burr’s greasy-haired, Neanderthal-faced friend Carl agrees to help Burr dispose of the boy’s body and his car in exchange for doing whatever he wants with the girl.

Will Burr defend Jenny? Can this weak old man challenge his strongest friend?

“I knew this story would be about a monster who, over time and failing health, has become vulnerable and is now the prey,” Moehling explains in a conversation printed in the back cover of his book.

“Emmett viewed himself as a victim all his life, even when he victimized others. I wanted readers to understand that about him, and I wanted Emmett to have to face his past again. I wanted to see how he would behave in a similar situation and in the face of a monster even bigger than him.

Meanwhile, Ben Packard does everything to find the two teenagers, whom he hopes are still alive. He tries to keep it as low-key as possible, using his job as a mask, hiding his past at Sandy Lake where his grandparents had a cabin that drew extended family for wonderful times. Until Packard’s brother drowned in the lake. His body was never discovered.

Putting her novel in a small town comes naturally to Moehling, who is 50 and lives in the Golden Valley with Chris, her partner of 13 years.

Moehling calls Sandy Lake “an amalgamation” of all the small towns he has known.

“I’ve always been fascinated by small town life,” he says. “My grandparents on both sides came from small towns in South Dakota. My father, Bruce, who is a beekeeper, lived in Wagner (pop. 1490). My parents divorced when I was young and I was with my mother, Lanette Haas, a nurse and army officer. We’ve lived everywhere – Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, three years in Hamburg, Germany.

Moehling graduated from the University of South Dakota at Vermillion with a degree in English and moved to the Twin Cities in 1993 because he had college friends here. After a teaching stint in Mankato, where he was going to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing, he dropped out of the program and returned to the cities.

“For a long time, I hadn’t written anything,” he recalls. “I had to decide if I should be a writer or not.”

In 2005, Moehling took a course at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis taught by the late Mary Gardner, who encouraged him as a writer. Gardner, who died in 2020 of COVID, wrote four novels and was known in the literary community for mentoring new authors.

“I loved Mary,” Moehling says. “I had 150 pages and I wasn’t even sure I was going to write a book. Mary read what I had and was like, ‘Oh, my! You can write.’ It was the confidence boost I needed from someone who could be objective. I took his comment to heart. What she taught me was to keep going.

Moehling has signed a two-book deal which he plans to extend to three books because he needs a lot of space to complete the story arc which focuses on the death of Ben’s brother and the Ben’s personal issues that remain unresolved in “And There He Kept Her”. ”

LAUNCH OF THE BOOK “AND THERE HE KEEPS IT”

What: Joshua Moehling launches his first psychological thriller ‘And There He Kept Her’, in conversation with award-winning Minnesota writer Gretchen Anthony.

When or: 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14. In person. Magers & Quinn, 3038 Hennepin Ave S., Minneapolis. Mandatory registration at magersandquinn.com.

Other appearances:

7 p.m. June 15, Literature lovers’ evening, with Dane Bahr (“The Houseboat”), Marie Myung-OK Lee (“The Evening Hero”), Kathleen West (“Home or Away”). In person. Zephyr Theatre, 601 N. Main St., Stillwater, presented by Valley Bookseller. $15. Buy your tickets at valleybookseller.com.

2:00-4:00 p.m. June 18, meeting, Once Upon a Crime, 604 W. 26th St., Minneapolis.

Publisher/price: Poison Pen Press / Sourcebooks, $26.99

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