Cover image for Six crooked highways
Six crooked highways
Johnson, Wayne.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harmony Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
303 pages ; 25 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Continuing the series begun in Don't Think Twice, Johnson again brings his special brand of writing to the intriguing character of Paul Two Persons, a Native American resort owner, who sets out to oppose a highway going through Indian lands and solve the murder of a local boy at the same time.

Author Notes

Wayne Johnson grew up in the north lakes region of Minnesota and on the White Earth and Red Lake reservations. He was a teaching-writing fellow of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and is the recipient of the prestigious Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. His short fiction has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including, The Atlantic Monthly, the Norton Anthology of Literature, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In this gritty North Woods mystery, a proposed highway that threatens the Red Lake Band Chippewa reservation, a floater found in a lake, a body found in a sink hole, and a long-ago wrong all converge on Paul Two Persons, forcing him into both investigation and defense, when all he wants is to recover from the murder of his son, shore up his grief-shatted marriage, and run his Minnesota fishing resort. The plot turns on betrayal: two fishing guides witness a murder and are hunted to their deaths; Paul Two Persons is implicated in murder by a corrupt cop; he is haunted by the past abuse of his sister by a priest; and the band of Red Lake Chippewas to which he belongs is once again being set up by a slick deal. Two Persons is an able guide to the North Woods landscape and lore that figure in this fast-paced plot, the successor to Johnson's first mystery, Don't Think Twice [BKL Mr 15 99]. --Connie Fletcher

Publisher's Weekly Review

Tribal intrigue and government meddling on the Chippewa Red Lake Indian Reservation along the western shores of northern Minnesota's labyrinthine Lake of the Woods propel this atmospheric but cluttered sequel to Johnson's well-received Don't Think Twice. Awakened in the middle of the night by the roar of a motor boat on the lake in front of his popular resort lodge, Paul Two Persons worries that the commotion will disturb the sleep of his wife, Gwen, and their two-year-old daughter. But more is disturbed than sleep when a dead body is found floating near the abandoned boat the next morning. Paul's cop pal Charlie Groten informs Paul that his name has come up in the resulting investigation; this appears to have something to do with Paul's resistance to the state political hierarchy's plan to cut a highway across a section of the reservation leased to the resort. In a cryptic message on the lodge answering machine, a top candidate for the Minnesota senate jokes about some mysterious real estate manipulation. Meanwhile, Paul's relationship with the Chippewa tribal council, which wants the money the highway would bring, is troubled. Another dead body shows up in a sinkhole; a boy who works for Paul is found murdered. A host of one-dimensional bit-part players clogs the narrative, which is further burdened by superfluous references to the previous Paul Two Persons novel. Paul is a strong character, a conscientious man who has made good and wants to help those less fortunate, while protecting his lodge and family from harm. Johnson's portrayal of modern tribal dynamics is nuanced and convincing. Stretches of murky prose and a convoluted plot stifle the narrative, however, defusing the final lakeside showdown. 8-city Minnesota and Kansas author tour. (July) MOTORCYCLE ENLIGHTENMENT Charles Sides. Hampton Roads, $12.95 paper (192p) ISBN 1-57174-172-0 ~ Jack Kerouac meets Richard Ford in this slender, thoughtful piece of visionary fiction. We follow Alan Pierce, an unemployed divorced Pennsylvanian, on a memorable journey beginning on the road but becoming an ethereal voyage of self-discovery. Though Alan plans to motorcycle to California, he winds up in New Jersey, where he settles down and tries to find himself. He rises at 5 a.m. to do yoga and meditate. He munches on pizza and doughnuts and, later, broccoli. And he falls in love with a real estate agent named Jean, who can tell "from [his] eyes" that Alan's life has fallen apart. She isn't put off by Alan's muddled confusion, early morning regime or balding pate, however. Jean (who conveniently holds a master's degree in counseling) is insightful and incisive, and readers may grow to love her as Alan does, as he learns to eat meditatively, enjoying his food without rushing, to stop gazing blankly at the Jersey shore and to feel each grain of warm sand when he goes out for a stroll. At times, this novelÄlike others packed with so many life lessonsÄtends toward the didactic, but it remains a captivating and spiritually challenging read. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Native American lodge owner Paul Two Persons, first seen in Don't Think Twice, returns to star in a second novel set on the Red Lake reservation in Minnesota. This time, he faces a crooked deal involving government-sponsored development in the form of a road that would cut through the heart of his property. There is more to the deal than just building a road bed, however, and when the corpses start piling up (including that of a young Native American whom Paul was trying to help keep on the straight-and-narrow), it's up to Paul and friend Charlie, the local cop, to figure out the mystery. While not as atmospheric as the first book, this is a superior mystery and certainly a worthy successor. Recommended for all mystery/suspense collections.DAlicia Graybill, Lincoln City Libs., NE (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Dead of night, the boat came up the lake from the south, at first no louder than a mosquito, that signature outboard whine, then closer, louder, until with an insistent grinding the boat went by the lodge docks and out onto the bay, passing us, to my relief -- but there, instead of going farther north, through the buoys and up the channel, instead of going on to Barney's Ball Lake, or to the Northwest Outfitters, or Halbert's to bother someone else, now, whoever it was made a hard, sharp turn, that outboard chuttering and whining at it, coming at us. In bed I lay on my back, staring into the dark, willing myself to stay put. It's nothing, I told myself. They would keep going, they were just getting their bearings. Still, I had reason to be awake in the middle of the night waiting. I reached for the clock on the nightstand; the arms glowed bright green in the dark. Four ten. A visit this time of night could be nothing but trouble, I thought, though maybe these were just a couple overzealous fishermen playing early bird, or lost. But even as I was thinking it, there was a distinct watery splash, which I knew could be nothing but someone going overboard. I very nearly laughed at it, relieved. I looked at my wife, Gwen, beside me, hair blue black on the white pillowcase, beautiful. I didn't want to wake her, or our daughter, Claire, just two and in her crib in the other room, so I hesitated. Propped on my elbow, I thought, Why get up? They'll be gone by the time I'm out of bed. The boat went into a third wide circle of the bay, and I thought, happily, kids. That's what it was. Kids, wilding. Making a nuisance of themselves. It had to be that. But it wasn't even near Hump Night, when the resort help got crazy before heading down to White Earth and logging. It wouldn't be that time for another two months. I was waiting for a second splash -- the motorman taking a dive, too. But that didn't come. That was the old trick: steal a boat, run it around the lake, bang it to hell on things, and when dawn was on your tail, dump the boat. I swung my legs around to put my feet on the floor. The boat made a fourth, then fifth circle right offshore of the island. Gwen turned on her side toward me. She opened her eyes, trying to wake herself. "What are they doing out there?" she asked. I touched the side of her face, kissed her hair, smelled lilac. "Nothing," I said. "It's just kids." Still, that did it. I shook myself, yanked on pants, shirt, cinched my belt -- thought, shit! the belt was onto that third hole, shore lunch fat -- scuffed on my shoes. I bolted out of the cabin ran to the bluff overlooking our docks; beyond them, in the bay, the moon was reflected in the blue-black water, a wavering silver coin, the boat cutting around it in a wide hydroplaning arc, a perfect circle. And no one behind the wheel. I ran up along the bluff, closer to the water, the path to the boathouse and dock to my right, scanning the lake, and that's when I saw it. A line of ripple leading to the north, not from the boat, but from the swimmer who'd jumped from it. He'd left a veritable wake behind him, slapping at the water. The moon caught on him, a shadowy figure going up and into the trees on Snowbank Island, opposite us. And just like that, like pakwene, smoke -- he was gone, the boat  out on the bay turning yet another perfect circle. Later that morning in the kitchen, I was hunched over the phone talking to Charlie Groten, Pine Point's finest, our constabulary in blue, my now on-again off-again pal and splinter in my foot. It seemed we were always arguing over something. Now it was the boat. I wanted Charlie to pick it up so I could get on with my day, but he was telling me he needed to look into a floater some guide had found offshore of the Angle. A floater was somebody who'd drowned -- usually a tourist. Every summer ten or so people died that way on the lake, their bodies bobbing to the surface after a time. I thought Charlie's bringing it up at all was a hedge, an excuse not to make the trip out, until he said, chuckling, "The guy who dropped off that boat would've had to fly to make it over to The Angle to drown himself the same night, just about. Don't you think?" I asked him what he was getting at. "Bunch of BCA cops are turning the lake inside out, trying to find the boat he was in." I felt the skin prickle at the back of my neck. The BCA was the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Serious stuff. "My name come up?" I said. "Did you do something so it would?" "Jesus, Charlie." "Didn't lose your temper with any of the tribal council people, make any threats or --" "Why -- somebody say I did?" He mentioned talking to someone at the Rambler's, a bar and grocery where I did business, but wouldn't say who, and when I asked him what I'd supposedly said, his voice trailed off until I couldn't make out what he was saying at all -- I couldn't tell if for shame, or if it was that he didn't want this new girl he'd got to play secretary in the office to hear. Suddenly it was oppressively noisy in that kitchen, hot. "Hang on, dammit!" I said, and, holding my hand over the phone, turned to Mardine. Mardine was running the KitchenAid, mixing more pancake batter, while twelve already sizzled on the grill. Substantial, dark as strong tea, her braids bound in blue cloth, Mardine had gotten bigger, and when she bent down to take her muffins out of the oven, she butted me over, teasing. I must have given her a nasty look because she glared right back and said, " Sit down and let me finish here, you want people to eat breakfast." I squeezed into the desk between the kitchen counter and the wall, one of those school deals, an apron of Mardine's tossed over the hump of junk on the writing surface, as if that tidied things up. The mixer was even louder there, thwoking away. I held the phone out to Mardine, pointed to it. "I can't go any faster," she said. Hugh, a tall, good-looking Noka clan kid who'd been after me to have a hand in management, winked in my direction and snatched up one of Mardine's muffins, bit wolfishly into it, and ducked out of the kitchen when Mardine took a swing at him with her spatula. Gwen went by the counter in a cobalt blue dress, balancing on her forearm the plates Mardine had prepared. I smiled for her, and she frowned slightly -- she could see it was some trouble or another now -- then directed the new girl, Josette, to do the same, and went out. Mardine reached for the KitchenAid and it stopped its frenetic thwacking of batter. "No appliances for two minutes, all right?" I told Mardine. "And don't let anybody in here." Mardine gave me a so-you-want-to-ruin-my-breakfasts? shrug, stacked the last of the pancakes on a platter, and bustled into the dining room. I took my hand off the phone. "So what are you trying to tell me? "What, you got 102nd artillery in the kitchen?" "Cough it up, Charlie," I said. I wasn't about to have him put me off. "Who knows about the boat?" "Just Gwen," I said. "Put it where nobody'll see it," Charlie said. "Just until I get out there, all right?" I knew all too well what he was asking me to do, and that it could cause me serious trouble. "Why?" I said. There was that radio hum on the line, ominously loud now for Charlie's silence, then the rasp of a match, Charlie lighting a cigarette. But I knew all too well what he was implying through his silence. Late August, two years earlier, shortly after our closing season dinner, two men and I had taken a Chris Craft powerboat up the channel through the buoys. Each one was steel, about the size of a good-sized car set on end, half of that out of water. Weaving between them, the driver lost control and the boat struck the eighth buoy, killing the two men in front and badly injuring me. How the driver had lost control, that's what Charlie, my cop friend, thought he knew, what he suspected: that the two men had meant Gwen and me some real harm--had already done worse, had been instrumental in my son's death the autumn of the year before--and that as a last and desperate measure, I'd caused the boat to hit the buoy. Charlie had talked with the FBI after the accident and had given his version of it. All that we had between us. "Charlie," I said. "Just do it , okay? I'll get out there when I can," he said, and hung up. I let my head drop back, stunned at it. I set my elbow down on that mess of a desktop, on Mardine's apron, and hit something hard but springy. Our answering machine came on -- You've reached -- home of Minnesota's finest pike and walleye fishing. I lifted Mardine's apron off the desk. Here was the answering machine, duct-taped to the desktop, no doubt Mardine's solution to the space problem. Clever, I thought, angrily. I bent over the machine, wound so tight I was tempted to smack it, stop it right then and there. I didn't need any more complications -- much less from a machine. That machine had caller ID, line switching, so people could leave messages for me, Gwen, or our help, and fifteen other features I'd been too busy to learn how to use. I hated the damn thing, and hadn't wanted it in the first place, and especially not in the kitchen where as often as not it was noisy. I jabbed at the buttons, was about to yank the plug out of the wall, when the machine shifted, playing a message left during the night: Market value is all it's worth. Offer it, but don't hang things up with waiting. Are we clear on that? There was a pause, and two voices started up on the other end, a conversation in a dialect of Ojibwemowin I didn't quite understand. It was a woman and a man, and they both laughed. Our . . . Pawn , the man said, ka -- Binishi'angoshkabay , and the woman, laughing so hard she could barely get it out, said, in English, Stop it, stop it, I'll wet myself . The first voice broke in again, but now sharply insistent, even urgent, They don't want to go with the deal on Penn Avenue, offer Nicollet. Make them look bad if they won't pull out. Got it? What ? the man on the other end said. There followed a dial tone, and the first voice emerged, as if out of a fog, suddenly familiar, cursing in world-class fashion. I felt almost relieved at it: the voice was that of Richard "Skip" King, a candidate for the Minnesota Senate. He'd left just after daylight, cut his stay by a week, called down to Minneapolis. I thought about that floater, and Dick King rushing off the island the way he had -- then thought, no. Coincidence. I told myself it was just business, and it would be more of the same on the tape, thought to erase the conversation, but didn't. Instead I pressed Save , even as Mardine charged back into the kitchen. "Out. Now," she said, waving her spatula at me, and I did exactly that. Excerpted from Six Crooked Highways by Wayne Johnson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.