PdC native debuts thriller in which city plays pivotal role

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Born and raised in Prairie du Chien, Kevin Kluesner has released his debut thriller novel, “The Killer Sermon,” a first in a three-part series. He now lives in New Berlin with his wife, Janet, who is also from Prairie du Chien.

The cover of the novel "The Killer Sermon."

By Correne Martin


Prairie du Chien native Kevin Kluesner has released his debut novel, “The Killer Sermon,” a fast moving thriller that reminds us that our words matter, and that, regardless of how big our differences on divisive issues, we can still find respect, and maybe more.

The story of the book, the first in a three-part series, begins with an aging priest in rural Wisconsin who gives an impassioned Christmas homily condemning abortion as murder and exhorting his parishioners to stop it. 

A former mayor responds by starting a hunger strike in city hall, and the editor of the local weekly newspaper begins running a counter at the top of each edition that estimates the number of abortions performed since Roe v. Wade. 

A third member of the congregation takes a more lethal approach and begins to target reproductive rights physicians for murder. 

Cole Huebsch is a pro-life leaning Milwaukee FBI agent. Michele Fields is a pro-choice leaning reporter. They need to set aside their differences to catch the killer before the country is torn apart. 

While reproductive rights physicians are targeted for murder in the novel, Kluesner said he had a story that needed telling and, while writing it, never considered how unpopular the topic would be with a lot of the publishing world.

“Some of the early rejects I received from literary agents and publishers told me that they loved the writing but didn’t want to represent a novel with abortion violence in it. They only read the first few pages,” Kluesner said. “When my publisher, Level Best Books, signed me, it was a bit of redemption, especially because my publisher is owned and run by three amazing women who call themselves the Dames of Detection.”

Kluesner emphasized that “The Killer Sermon” is no pro-life or pro-choice creed. Rather, it’s a story about two protagonists (a man and a woman) who have very different opinions when it comes to the reproductive rights issue. But they need to put those aside to stop the killer. 

“My characters voice their own opinions, but you won’t find mine in the book, other than possible this: our words matter,” he stated. “We need to own them and realize that what we say will have consequences, sometimes in ways we never intended or imagined.”

In this case, it’s the priest in the novel whose sermon causes things he never intended.

The only other personal opinion Kluesner said may be in the book is his belief that no matter how big our difference on divisive issues, “we need to respect each other.”

“I am not in either the yes or no, black and white, always or never camp. I am much more in the nuanced middle with the rest of the silent majority,” he added.

Kluesner feels his novel is mostly fun. It celebrates Wisconsin, and local readers will recognize a bunch of local establishments and landmarks.

For instance, Kevin’s wife, Janet, was a Huebsch—thus, the last name of Cole, the main character. Prairie du Chien readers will also know the names Pedretti, Mara, Igou, Hubbard, Jeffers, and Lawler, to name a few. They will recognize the Courier Press and its editor, Grant Grae (a nod to the popular Crawford County stream), St. Gabriel’s Church, Geisler’s Blue Heaven, Simply and Blackhawk Avenue.

Born and raised in Prairie du Chien, Kluesner was a big wrestler, another fun aspect that comes out in his novel. He went to Campion Jesuit High School and graduated from Prairie du Chien High. He left the community after graduating with his first degree in journalism from Marquette University. He later obtained an MBA from Marquette. He’s worked as an outdoor writer for the La Crosse Tribune, taught marketing and management at Viterbo University, and served as an administrator of an urban safety net hospital in Milwaukee. He recently took on the position of site administrator for the Milwaukee Mental Health Emergency Center, which is expected to open May 1. 

He and Janet live in New Berlin. Kevin’s mom, Geraldine Kluesner, and his sisters, Kathy Igou and Michele Mara, all still live in Prairie du Chien, close by many other family members from both sides.

Though he’s spent the past 40 years in health care, Kluesner said he’s always considered himself a writer and a reader, reading at least a book a week.

“The Killer Sermon” was released earlier this month and has garnered positive reviews, including one in Milwaukee Magazine. It’s been mentioned in blogs for the New York Times and USA Today. The novel is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other platforms. 

The second and third installment in the Cole Huebsch series will come out in January 2023 and January 2024, respectively.



Book Signing 














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