Spring Valley author continues long-running book series

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Mark Reps has officially booked it to number 10.

Spring Valley native and Minnesota author Reps recently completed “Native Fate,” the 10th book in his “Zeb Hanks: Small Town Sheriff, Big Time Trouble” mystery book series, a milestone in writing novels that capture readers’ attention and keep them turning pages to find out what happens next to the Graham County, Ariz., sheriff who’s the main character of the series that he began with “Native Blood” nearly a decade ago.

“It’s hard for me to believe that this is the tenth installment of this series I started nearly a decade ago,” he wrote on his Amazon webpage where his books are sold.  “A lot has changed in that time, both for Zeb and for me as an author.  I want to thank you, my readers, for your continued interest and support.  You make it all worthwhile.”    

He started on the book last May and finished it just last month. The life of the main character, Zeb Hanks, has changed dramatically. He lost his bid for re-election as sheriff of Graham County, married Echo Skysong and became the father of twins, all of which has given him a new outlook on life. 

“While honeymooning in Paris, he gets the news that Sawyer Black Bear, newly elected sheriff of Graham County, has been found murdered,” Reps summarized.  “Returning home sets in motion his re-election as sheriff and hopes of finding the solution to the many crimes that got him tossed out of office in the first place.  However, top on his list of duties is solving the murder of his predecessor, Sawyer Black Bear.” 

With his old team of Jake, Helen, Clarissa, Kate and Shelly, along with former Tribal Police Chief Rambler Braing at his side, Sheriff Hanks heads into “some dark places as several people close to him meet with unexpected deaths,” Reps said.  “The fate and future of Graham County and his family rests squarely on Zeb’s shoulders as he struggles with his true enemies.  ‘Native Fate’ is full of twists and turns.  It will have you wondering and learning about the real Zeb Hanks.” 

He commented that he’s “always happy to see the next in the series up and running…it’s exciting, and the readers of the series are always ready for the next book, so it’s exciting.”  There are challenges to writing a 10-book series, however, and he pointed out that there are revisions that have to be made to carry his characters through from one volume to the next.

All the books are linked through the characters, especially Sheriff Hanks, and now his wife, Skysong, plus stalwarts medicine man Jimmy Song Bird and deputy Jake Dablo, among others. 

“A favorite character…I have to go with Zeb and medicine man Jimmy Song Bird,” he said.  “Song Bird is an amalgam of all the medicine men I have met over the years, and Zeb is the hero of the books.  But I would have mapped everything out for all the books from day one.  Over time, everything changes.  The places, Graham County, Arizona, and the San Carlos Apache Reservation are the same, but over time, the situation and circumstances change, grow and become other things.  Also, as the readers get to know the characters, they want to see growth.  New characters come and go as different crimes are committed and different families enter the picture. 

“The plot of each story is based on a single concept.  Early on, I looked at alcoholism in ‘Adios Angel,’ in ‘Holes in the Sky,’ I looked at what happens when the government takes holy territory from an Indian tribe.  ‘Native Fate’ takes a deep look at the complexities of family.  The challenges are in setting the right conflict and tone, always reminding the readers of why they like Zeb and are on his side, as well as keeping the reader informed, engaged and enlightened from beginning to end on an ever-increasing basis.”   

Positive reviews from his readers and pre-readers encourages Reps that “Native Fate” is as entertaining as the first nine books in the series. Fans of the series love Hanks, he added. 

“I hope they stay engaged from page one to the end of the story.  It is amazing to believe that it has gone on this long and continues to grow and pick up new readers along the way.  I wonder if I will feel the same when book 15 or 20 comes out, but there are still some Zeb Hanks tales to be told.  I love creating the story.  I never know what they are when I begin, and then as I write and research, they sort of find themselves and come out of me and become a novel,” he said.

Reps observed that while most of his readers might be engaged in the “Native” series, he’s got other projects in progress that might interest and surprise them.  For example, he is writing a book, half done, called “The Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played” that takes place on top of Mount Rushmore in 1939 as it is being built.  The monument was constructed from 1927 to 1941.  The teams are the Mount Rushmore Drillers, who are the men who are building the monument, and the Roscoe Rangers, a Stearns County, Minnesota, team that was his grandfather’s team.

He invited his current readers to continue adventures with Zeb Hanks by finding “Native Fate” on Amazon and new readers to start with “Native Blood” to get the full series’ plotline. 

“They will get the most out of it by reading the series from start to finish,” he said.  “I hope those who have read the entire series see the progression in my writing and in the characters.  I hope they enjoy figuring out the mystery.  I just hope they love the series.”

As for what will happen in the future, Reps said, “Stay tuned – more to come.” 



Thank you for the nice article, Gretchen