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'Riding Shotgun' captures nostalgic thrill of Midwest road trips

Submitted photos.

HAGER CITY — Paul Schaefer, author of the debut novel "Riding Shotgun", has lived everywhere from the rainy English countryside to the busy streets of New York City. Often reminiscing about happy memories of visiting his grandparent's farm, Schaefer decided to settle in the Midwest, moving to Wisconsin with his wife after purchasing an abandoned 19th century farm.

The retired anthropology professor has a background in writing and noted he's been able to continue to find various outlets to do so.

"I had written things all my life: articles, poetry, letters to the editor and the dissertation for my PhD," Schaefer said. "This is my first venture into fiction, better late than never."

Inspired by his travels and love for the Midwest, the fiction story brings the reader on a memorable road trip from California to Minnesota. Mary, the protagonist, is an 80-year-old woman driving across the country to see her sister with a mannequin in the passenger seat, protecting her from danger.

"I heard of an elderly woman who always traveled with a cardboard cutout of a man," Schaefer said. "The idea seized me."

Half of the novel takes place in Winona County, and even mentions Red Wing Shoes during Mary's travels. Along for the ride, mannequin Mike rides shotgun and is dressed head to toe in her dead husband's clothes.

"Neither age nor circumstance should be a barrier to having a good adventure," Schaefer said.

"Riding Shotgun" a novel by Paul Schaefer

While the intention is for Mike to protect her, Mary runs into danger when she realizes she is truly on her own. Mike also tags along as quiet company with the benefit of no distractions, such as having to use the bathroom, change the music, or any other request during the road trip. "Riding Shotgun" is Mary's chance to have one last adventure in her old age by herself and to visit her sister along the way.

"If you like farming, gardening, the rural life and a little humbug, this book is for you," Schaefer said.

Fair Trade Books will host a book launch 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 5, for "Riding Shotgun." The event is open and free to the public. "All ages and backgrounds will find themselves somewhere in this book," Schaefer said.

Rick DeVoe of Fair Trade Books mentioned he already has sold copies. "The story has been met with a universal enthusiasm from readers."

Schaefer will have readings at the event along with refreshments from Fair Trade Books.

"Paul will engage the curious in any aspect," DeVoe said.

The story is listed at $17.95 and will be available for signing at the event.

While this may be Schaefer's first story, he is already well on his way for a sequel to "Riding Shotgun." For more information on Schaefer and his novel, visit

Kit Murray

Kit Murray joined Red Wing Republican Eagle in Aug. 2016, covering government, transportation and public safety. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in photojournalism and philosophy. 

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