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Dakota Midday: Historical Fiction Writer Steve Linstrom

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Although he now lives in Minnesota, Steve Linstrom grew up in western South Dakota and worked in Pierre. He was fiscal analyst for the Legislative Research Council, director of research for the South Dakota Board of Regents and the state director of Information Services.

Linstrom's first novel, The Last Ram, is set in the Badlands in 1903. His latest book, The Murder Trial of the Last Lakota Warrior, is the story of a young Lakota named Plenty Horses who stands trial for shooting an Army Lieutenant in the aftermath of Wounded Knee.

Linstrom is part of the South Dakota Humanities Council’s speaker’s roster and gives a presentation this evening at the History and Heritage Book Club at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. He joined Dakota Midday and discussed the challenges and responsibilities of writing historical fiction.

Karl was born to northeastern South Dakota crouton farmers, but was orphaned as a toddler during the Great Salad War (1966-67). Rescued by a flock of chickadees, he grew up in the woodlands of Sica Hollow. Legends of a bird boy living in the trees attracted the interest of renowned ornithologist and amateur bandoneon repairman Dr. Vogel Gehrke. With a handful of suet, Dr. Gehrke coaxed the timid boy down from the trees. He adopted him, named him Karl and taught him not to molt on the carpet. Dr. Gehrke’s book, The Bird Boy of Sica Hollow, was a best seller and Karl became a minor celebrity and teen idol. He appeared as a guest star on numerous television programs, most notably an awkward role on The Love Boat as the boyfriend of Captain Stubing’s daughter, Vicki. After critics panned his 1980 album, Bird Boy Does Disco, Karl retreated from public life and returned to Sica Hollow. Living in an isolated tree house, Karl achieved a reputation as a mystic. Pilgrims and seekers from around the world came to ask him about the meaning of life and for vinaigrette recipes. Growing tired of answering questions, he climbed down from his tree, shaved his massive white beard and took a job as the host of SDPB Radio’s Dakota Midday where he could ask the questions instead. After three years in that position, he ran out of questions and became host of Jazz Nightly instead. Karl makes his home in Vermillion with his charming wife Kari and three delightful children, Kodey, Kasey and Spatula. His hobbies include reciting the alphabet, combing his hair and doing volunteer work with delinquent songbirds.
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