Should a citizen ever take the law into their own hands?
Gunnar "Raven" Ravendal grapples with the question after his niece is murdered by sex traffickers in Prescott author Jerry Rice's premier novel "Raven Avenging."
Set in the late 1970s, the story harkens back to the "Minnesota Pipeline," a crime phenomenon in which sex traffickers from the east coast would target the state's abundant population of blonde, blue-eyed women.
Raven's niece, Kari, fit the description.
She was lured into sex slavery in New York by the mafia and killed during an escape attempt, and Raven wants vengeance.
A woodsman and gunsmith from Rice's birthplace in Minnesota's north woods, Raven relies on his skills and outdoor wisdom to outwit Kari's captors.
Rice finished the book earlier this year, a feat inspired by the burgeoning sex trafficking problem in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"The whole thing made me angry enough to write the book," Rice said.
A Twin Cities attorney, Rice started writing the book during the peak of the Minnesota Pipeline.
At the time, former Minnesota Attorney General Doug Head asked Rice to draft a statute that created harsher punishments for people who paid for sex.
The crime is now a felony, but Rice's draft boosted the penalty from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, although, he said, "It always should have been a felony."
"I learned more than I ordinarily would have about the sleazy biz of recruiting girls into prostitution," he said of his research. "I was appalled and I'm still appalled. The decision to complete the book was partially motivated by the fact that human trafficking today is worse than it was before. The penalties are more draconian, but the exploitation of young girls and young men worldwide with use of the internet has worsened."
Rice is also personally familiar with the commercial sex industry's devastating effects. An extended member of his family, he said, fell victim and disappeared, but later returned.
"Raven Avenging" is Rice's first novel. He has published two legal books and several poems, but said he hopes his novel spurs more conversation about the threat of human trafficking.
The topic is not always easy to approach, he said, but it is important that parents talk to their kids about it.
"There are parents who want their children to stay naive," he said. "I think it's too dangerous a situation for parents to be naive."
Meet the Author
Rice will be available for discussion, questions and book signings at a number of upcoming events in Minnesota and Wisconsin:
• Prescott, Wisconsin: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 2 at the Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center, 200 Monroe St.
• Minneapolis: 7 p.m. Thusday, July 6 at Once Upon a Crime Books, 604 W. 26th St.
• Red Wing, Minnesota: Noon Saturday, July 8 at Fair Trade Books, 320 Bush St.
• St. Paul: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 13 at Subtext Books, 6 W. Fifth St.