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Gwen Florio, three-time nominated Pulitzer Prize journalist-turned-fiction author, will sign her latest book from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 19, at Books & Books, 206 W. Park St.

“Dakota” is the second in her contemporary thriller series, all simply titled with Western states so far. They star protagonist and primo wisecracker Lola Wicks, former foreign correspondent.

A deft play on words, Wicks is a wickedly smart journalist who takes a job at a small-town Montana newspaper on the Blackfoot reservation after a good friend of hers is murdered in Florio’s inaugural novel, aptly titled “Montana.”

Wicks fills her unfortunate friend’s shoes at the tiny newspaper while digging up yet another murder in Magpie, a fictional town. “Dakota” is so-named because Wicks convinces her small-town editor to let her hoof it to the booming Bakken, where she unravels the

latest in a reservation-connected murder of a young woman.

Florio’s gritty, no-holds-barred story rings true with meticulous descriptions of the harsh, gorgeous Montana landscape and true-to-life characters that many well-traveled Montanans will recognize.

Her series adds yet another rich layer to the canon of genuine Montana stories that includes the likes of Dorothy Johnson, A.B. Guthrie and poet Richard Hugo, whose poetry of place reflected the true backroads of Montana.

Jo Antonioli, Books & Books owner, is already a fan, sight unseen.

“I haven’t had a chance to read Dakota,” said Antonioli. “But I’m really glad that Gwen can come. It’s an effort for authors.”

Recently Florio attended the high-profile ThrillerFest in New York alongside powerhouse fellow authors Anne Rice, R.L. Stine, Scott Turow and others. ThrillerFest is the International Thriller Writers annual


But Florio can’t pin down a favorite highlight of her whirlwind book tour so far:

“Seriously, one of the great joys of book-signings is that I get to meet so many booksellers, librarians and readers around the state,” Florio told The Montana Standard.

“They, in turn, give me suggestions of books I might like to read, so that my to-be-read list is seriously out of control. I love travelling around Montana, so that the obligation of book

promotion ends up being fun.”

Florio first fell in love with Montana about 20 years ago when she camped in Glacier National Park. Eventually, she landed at the Great Falls Tribune Helena Bureau in 2005. She then worked at the Missoulian, where she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Impressively, she had been nominated for Pulitzers at earlier newspapers: The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Denver Post.

But she’s been writing fiction for 20 years on the side.

Florio’s descriptions as a newspaper insider are spot-on as she meshes the harsh realities of reservation culture with the riveting storyline of unsolved murder.

She is a lot like Wicks, but there are differences.

“Lola is younger, taller and thinner than I, damn her,” said Florio.

“And, while my overseas assignments were only for short stints, she’s a seasoned correspondent who’s spent several years in Afghanistan, which made for a difficult adjustment to life back in the United States — useful for the story.”


Education Reporter who also covers features at The Montana Standard, I am a Cascade-Ulm-Great Falls native. Originally a sports writer, I wrote for the Missoulian and the Great Falls Tribune. I freelanced for The Seattle Times and other NW publications.

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