‘A Flathead Valley Mystery’

Local author James Thane published his fourth novel, "Crossroads," based in the Flathead Valley

By Maggie Dresser
Montana author James L. Thane in Lakeside on July 29, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

A few summers ago, James Thane was sitting near Flathead Lake in Lakeside when an idea for a mystery novel popped into his head.

“I just couldn’t get rid of it,” Thane said. “So I started playing around with it just for the fun of it and one thing led to another and seven months later, I had a very, very bad book finished.”

His practice novel paved the way for four better books since he transitioned from teaching college to writing full time. His fourth book, “Crossroads,” was inspired by an environmental and logging court case in the Kootenai National Forest.

“It struck me that there was a story lurking in there,” Thane said.

The mystery novel tells the story of a Kalispell attorney who defends an environmentalist in a “raging battle over the future of Montana’s national forests.”

Growing up in Missoula, Thane realized as a kid that he wanted to write stories, but instead he headed down the pre-law path once he got to college. But as a history and political science major, he switched gears to become a college professor instead, which he did for more than 30 years.

“You could teach, plus you could write,” Thane said. “You wouldn’t have to be a starving writer.”

Thane transitioned into writing full time a few years ago with intentions of focusing on nonfiction. He was working on a book about women on the Rocky Mountain mining front, which he hasn’t returned to, before immersing himself into mystery novels.

“At the time, I had no intention of writing a novel,” Thane said. “I’ve always loved to read crime fiction, but it never occurred to me that I could write a mystery novel.”

After spending summers on Flathead Lake throughout his childhood, Thane wanted to write a Flathead Valley-based novel after writing a Phoenix-based series about a homicide detective named Sean Richardson.

Thane continues to spend summers on Flathead Lake. He’s been coming to Lakeside for the past few decades and spends the rest of his time in Phoenix, which inspired his other novels.

While he just released “Crossroads” this year, his third Sean Richardson novel will come out this November, with another book set for publication in November of 2021.

This July, Thane was supposed to have a book signing at The Bookshelf in Kalispell and he had another book event scheduled at the North Lake County Public Library in Polson, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans, canceling both events. Thane says the pandemic has also delayed the publishing process and he’s had to figure out his own promotion strategies.

“The publishing business works very slowly in the best of times,” Thane said. “With this pandemic, it’s just been a disaster for them and everyone else. Trying to promote a book in the middle of all this is difficult to say the least.”

Thane says he mostly uses social media for book promotion nowadays, but that only goes so far.

For more information, visit www.jameslthane.com.

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