Set amid the Arizona copper mines, Spring Valley native Mark Reps’ new book “Native Earth” draws readers back into the gritty world of Sheriff Zeb Hanks.
It all begins when Hanks is awoken in the middle of the night to locate missing millionaire copper magnate Angus McGinty. The search comes to a quick end after a body is found at the copper mine.
The list of suspects is as long as it is varied with members of the Apache Nation, acquaintances and even his own wife having motive to want McGinty gone.
Adding fuel to the fire is a group of radical ecologists funded by McGinty’s own daughter. They are doing their best to shut down the copper mine and return the land and its minerals to the rightful owners, the San Carlos Apache tribe.
To complicate matters, the mine is Graham County’s largest employer and funds most of the area’s activities.
“Local and national politics, tribal water, mineral and land rights, big money, hired assassins and computer hacking are woven together in ‘Native Earth,’” Reps said of his seventh book in the “Zeb Hanks: Small Town Sheriff; Big Time Trouble” series.
Throughout the series, readers have witnessed Hanks solve complex crimes while dealing with his own demons.
“Zeb, like all of us, is aging and learning about his job the longer he does it,” Reps shared. “He is getting smart enough to rely on other experts to help him. He is also learning about himself, his heart, his mind and his spirit as he moves through life.”
Alongside Hanks is an intriguing cast of characters, which has steadily become more entwined into the series.
“Echo Skysong is being woven into the tale a little more and will be in the rest of the series. She and Zeb have gotten real close and, well, you’ll see about that,” Reps said. “Shelly, the computer hacker, plays a larger role in helping solve the crimes. She will also become a more important character. Sawyer Black Bear, deputy to Zeb, is explored more deeply in this book and he is here to stay. The usual crew of deputies, office staff, Doc Yackley, tribal police Chief Rambler Braing are all around and play pivotal roles. Since the story takes place in and around a copper mine I have included the mine owner and his family as well as the government bureaucrats who play a role in keeping the mine safe. I have created some fun suspects and some dark characters whom the reader will meet.”
As with most creative minds, inspiration can strike at any time and come from anywhere.
“Most of my ideas come directly from my imagination. They also come from reading other writers, events that have occurred in real life and from watching well-written television shows. These days there are many good TV writers on shows like “Justified,” “Longmire,” “The Man in the High Castle” and numerous other shows. I observe how they plot out a story, develop characters and how they infuse those characters into the storyline. I also get inspired from listening to actual storytellers. Lately I am inspired by the arcing of one point to the next in all of these forms. Connecting point A to point B and having it make sense is a real art. Some do it much better than others.”
Once he has the basis of the plot, Reps lays the groundwork with hours of research, learning as much as he can on the various subjects pivotal to the book.
“I research in numerous ways. I observe the writing of others, I use the internet and I listen to others,” he said.
While researching for “Native Earth,” Reps visited southeast Arizona where the stories take place and spent time near Safford, Arizona, on the San Carlos Apache reservation and in and around Graham County.
“I met with everyone at the Graham County Sheriff’s Office and talked to the local historian and got some better ideas that will make my novels more realistic. It would be sort of like talking to Mary Jo Dathe and picking up bits of information about Spring Valley that no one else knows or has put together,” Reps said. “Regarding the computer hacking, most of it came directly from the internet, though I did talk with someone who does it for the government. The ecological issues are true to the area. Water rights are a big issue in the desert and they crisscross with political issues. I read a lot about the water issues and local ecology when writing the book. In fact, north of where “Native Earth” takes place, in Superior, Arizona, the world’s largest copper mine is about to open. Naturally, there has been a lot of coverage on that on the news and in the newspapers.”
When beginning the series, Reps had planned to end it at 10 books, but he admits as the series grows in depth and in readers the idea of it coming to a close is tough.
“Ultimately, in book 10 of the series, everything will circle back to his childhood and the readers will get to understand the influences that shaped his youth, which in turn, influenced his decision making abilities as an adult,” Reps divulged.
After completing the seventh edition of the series, along with many other literary works, Reps still feels his creative well is full and his passion for writing still very much alive.
“It’s easy. It naturally flows to me. I have never experienced writer’s block nor have I been stuck in defining a character,” Reps confessed. “I guess that is helped by the fact that in murder mysteries you can always kill someone off. Being from Spring Valley and having grown up around so many story tellers, the passion is more of a natural thing and quite effortless.”
Once they finish turning the pages of “Native Earth,” Reps’ fans can look forward to delving into his next series.
“They are Catholic church mysteries. Sort of along the lines of the ‘Da Vinci Code’ and ‘Angels and Demons’ by Dan Brown. They need polishing and I will probably write one more in that series before releasing them,” Reps shared.
“Native Earth,” as with Reps’ previous literary works, is available at Amazon.com.
More information on Reps, along with his other books, can be found at www.markreps.com.