Help Me Chose the Next Book Cover for the Frank Dodge Mystery Series

Double-Dealing in Dubuque, the second Frank Dodge mystery, will be released this summer. (Insert cheers!) I’m in the home stretch of the production process and looking for your opinion on a cover image. Peggy Nehmen of N-KCreative has crafted two compelling images, and I’m having a hard time choosing between them. Would you please look them over and let me know which one really grabs your attention? Click on each image to see the full-size version.


New Look, New Content

Getting a new look is contagious (by Rose Bland)

I’m in the midst of a major overhaul of the Mississippi Valley Traveler website. Some changes will be less obvious, unless you look for them. For example, I’ve gone through virtually all of the posts to standardize tags and make them more useful for visitors. You’ll notice that there’s now a tag called “overlook”; it is used with posts that have photos from overlooks or that describe where overlooks are located (click here to find out what posts it includes). Feel free to play around with other tags and see where it takes you. If you have ideas for continuing to improve them, please let me know.

In the next few weeks I’ll also be rolling out new river town profiles, this time for communities downriver of the Quad Cities. The first one–Andalusia–rolls out tomorrow (June 22, 2015). I expect to be posting through the summer and will probably end this round around Quincy.

If that’s not enough, I recently added a new photo album of pictures from foggy days; I’ll be adding more photo albums for states and big cities on the lower Mississippi and will also be updating existing photo albums as time permits. So many pictures, so little time!

And if that’s still not enough, I’ll soon be rolling out an entirely new look for the website. The Mississippi Valley Traveler site has a lot of content but much of it takes some digging to find. We’ll be changing the look, so it’s more obvious what the site has to offer and to make it easier to navigate.

Have comments about any of this or any changes to suggest? I look forward to hearing them.

Until then, I’ll see you on the river.


Keokuk Book Signing and Depot Open House

Hi, everyone. The Old Depot in Keokuk will be hosting an open house and book signing on Saturday morning. Details are below. Hope to see you there.

From: The Keokuk Union Depot Foundation

The Keokuk Union Depot has scheduled an open house for Saturday, February 28 from 9:00 am – Noon. St Louis author, Dean Klinkenberg, will be at the depot to tell us about his new novel Rock Island Lines. He will be available for book sales and signing all morning and will give a short presentation about the book at 10:00 am. Many of you will remember Dean from his program about music and the Mississippi River which he gave at the depot last year.

The new photograph and framed cane of William “Midnight” Richardson which was recently donated to the depot will be on display along with the model of the depot showing what it will look like after restoration. Coffee and muffins will be served.

About the Book:

Mystery Set In Quad Cities Draws Inspiration from Legacy of Gangster John Looney

Gangster John Looney may have died 70 years ago, but stories of the chaos he created in Rock Island, Illinois live on. Author Dean Klinkenberg draws inspiration from those stories in a new mystery, Rock Island Lines.

“I’ve been intrigued by the story of John Looney’s life since I first came across it,” Klinkenberg said. Looney controlled much of the vice trade, and many Rock Island officials, in the 1910s and early 1920s, and was one of the first gangsters to build a national syndicate. He served eight years at the Joliet prison beginning in 1926 and died, nearly forgotten, in south Texas in 1942.

“While we know a lot about Looney’s life and crimes, we don’t know much about his family. If he has any living descendants, they’ve kept a very low profile, so I decided to invent a direct descendant of Looney and bring him back to the Quad Cities.”

The book’s protagonist, writer Frank Dodge, goes to the Quad Cities to track down the descendant, Miguel Ramirez, to feature him in a story he wants to write. The morning after they meet, Ramirez is found dead in the Mississippi River, and the police suspect that Dodge might have been involved in the murder. The book explores much of the history of Looney’s life as Dodge tries to prove his innocence. Dodge ultimately discovers that the Looney legend lived far longer than the man himself.

Rock Island Lines, released January 3rd, is the first in a series of mysteries that will be set in Mississippi River towns. Travel writer Frank Dodge, it seems, has a knack for getting into trouble.

Rock Island Lines is available through on-line retailers like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple’s iBooks, and at

Klinkenberg, the Mississippi Valley Traveler, lives in St. Louis. He is the author of the Mississippi Valley Traveler guidebooks.



Get to Know a River Town

When you travel along the Mississippi River, it doesn’t take long to figure out that part of the charm is the small towns and big cities of the river valley. The Mississippi Valley Traveler guidebooks cover those river towns from Hastings, Minnesota to the Quad Cities, with comprehensive coverage of each community’s history, and suggestions about what to do.

If you haven’t explored in a while, though, you may not know that I created an on-line guide to river communities that covers more places than the guidebooks. With the posting of yesterday’s profile of Keokuk, Iowa, you can now read about all the communities along the Mississippi River in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the northern third of Illinois. I’ll be adding more Illinois communities in the next few months.

You’ll find all these profiles organized by state when you select the tab “River Town Profiles” and “Destinations.” You can also use the search box to go to a specific community. Each profile has a history of the community, plus a few ideas on things to do and where to eat. Check ‘em out, and feel free to let me know about your favorite places in these communities.

Even though the weather has turned colder, don’t rule out a trip to the Upper Mississippi this winter. There are a lot of big events coming up, including bald eagle watches, the St. Paul Winter Carnival, the ski jump contest in Westby (WI), Grumpy Old Men Days in Wabasha, plus opportunities to try out winter sports like cross-country skiing, curling, and ice fishing.

If you’re afraid of a little snow or sub-zero temperatures, Mardi Gras is just around the corner, blues history is alive year round in the Delta, and Natchez and Vicksburg offer warmer temperatures and a laid-back experience.

The Mississippi Valley is a four-season destination, so get out there and explore. Tell them the Mississippi Valley Traveler sent you.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2014

Projects in Need of Support

Lake Pepin from Maiden Rock Bluff
Lake Pepin from Maiden Rock Bluff

A quick roundup of news about Mississippi River projects:

This feels like it has been a big year for the Mississippi, given the number of major books released and the interest in big projects about the river. If you haven’t seen them, yet, you should check out The Big Muddy: An Environmental History of the Mississippi and Its Peoples by Christopher Morris and Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History by Paul Schneider. (I miss short book titles!) I’ve listened to the authors talk about their respective works, and am looking forward to reading them over the winter.

In 2011, photographer Gayle Harper traveled the length of the Great River Road in 90 days as she followed a mythical raindrop downriver. She’s raising money now to finish production of a book about her trip. Check it out here and consider lending her your support.

I wrote earlier about Eddy Harris and his desire to canoe the length of the Mississippi (again!). He switched his fundraising site from Kickstarter to Indiegogo. You can now donate to his project here.


Pokey Plays River Song on Letterman

Congratulations to Pokey LaFarge, who got a spot on the David Letterman show Monday night! Not only did Pokey give a shout-out to his hometown of St. Louis, but the song he played, Central Time, makes frequent reference to the  Mississippi River. Central Time is on his new CD, called Pokey LaFarge; go buy it now! You can see his performance below.

I talked to Pokey a couple of years ago about river music. Read the interview here.