TAYLORS FALLS, Minn. -- When Minnesota outdoor writer Dan Brown – no, not that Dan Brown – decided to publish a collection of his essays on fishing, hunting and life, his choice for the book’s title was almost a foregone conclusion.
His namesake – “The Other” Dan Brown – after all, is the renowned author of “The Da Vinci Code,” the acclaimed 2003 mystery thriller that later became a movie starring Tom Hanks.
And so it began for the aptly titled book, “Da Fishi Code: Serious and Not-So-Serious Stories from da Rivers, Lakes, Fields, and Life,” a collection of 75 essays.
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The title, of course, is a play on words from “The Other” Dan Brown’s novel. Like “The Da Vinci Code,” the book by fisherman Dan Brown features an image of The Mona Lisa on the cover. But this Mona Lisa is holding a big Kamloops steelhead trout.
It’s all in good fun, says Brown, who lives along the St. Croix River in Taylors Falls on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.
Published by Beaver’s Pond Press in St. Paul, “Da Fishi Code” was released in late October.
“It’s a perfect cabin book – one to just have up there for guests or whatever. You can knock out one or two stories before bed,” Brown, 57, said in an interview. “There's nothing heavy in this book. I mean, this isn’t the great American novel, it’s 75 quick hits. One might really tickle a funny bone. The next one might be more serious and, you know, thought provoking or whatever.”
Brown, who works in the human services field for a Twin Cities company in his “real” job, said he started writing seriously in the early 2000s when he began contributing outdoor stories to a local weekly newspaper, the Chisago County Press.
A passionate fly fisherman and hunter since his childhood days, when he spent summers at the family cabin on Little Sand Lake near Remer, Brown had a wealth of stories from which to draw, both old and new.
Before long, he was contributing stories to other publications such as Outdoor News, Outdoors Weekly and newspapers throughout eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
Telling a story
Brown’s stories aren’t of the how-to variety – there are only so many ways you can write about how to catch a walleye, after all, he says. Instead, he writes about losing big fish and the meltdowns that follow. Those unforgettable days on the water that keep you coming back. Or even the risk of buying a used car from a guy whose middle name is Wayne and conjures up thoughts of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
“When I decide to write about something, it almost writes itself,” said Brown, a trout fishing guide since 2002 and a certified casting instructor with Fly Fishers International since 2008. “I’m so happy to hear from readers who say, ‘I’ve never fished or I hardly have fished in my life, and I just love the fishing stories because they’re not how-to.’ ”
The stories in “Da Fishi Code” aren’t arranged by a particular theme, but they do follow a general chronological sequence, Brown says. Many of the stories involve his sons, Anders, 22, and Augie, 18, now accomplished fly fishermen, as well.
“I’ve written maybe 250 pieces, and I picked 75 that just kind of have a broad appeal,” he said.
The idea for compiling some of those stories into a book came to him “two-three years ago,” Brown said. Finding a publisher proved tricky, he said, because his stories don’t fit into a neat category. Beaver’s Pond Press, which specializes in working with independent writers, proved to be a good fit for his work, Brown said.
Plus, their office is just a few blocks from where he works.
“I was kind of picky,” he said. “I wanted a publisher that would be a little discerning about what they publish but I was having a hard time finding a home. They said, ‘We read a lot of manuscripts, we talk to a lot of folks and we’re pretty picky. We take on maybe 10 projects a year.’
“And so I sent the manuscript, and they read it and said, ‘We’d love to do it.’ ”
In March, Brown received an email from Penguin Random House in New York City, publishers of “The Da Vinci Code.”
The email, which came from the publishing company’s copyright and piracy division, included the subject line, “Author Name and Potential Consumer Confusion.”
Brown’s reaction: “Holy (expletive), here we go!”
Despite the initial surprise, there was no cause for concern because author names can’t be copyrighted. And the Mona Lisa is in the public domain, so no issues there, either. Long story short, the email asked that Brown use his full name – Dan J. Brown – on all social media platforms selling “Da Fishi Code” to avoid any potential confusion with the book written by the renowned author of “The Da Vinci Code.”
Brown replied to the copyright agent that he would indeed use his middle initial but didn’t anticipate any confusion because his Facebook page already uses his middle initial, and his website is danbrowntrout.com.
And that was the last Dan J. Brown heard about that; he laughs at the encounter.
“The other Dan Brown sold 80 million copies of ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ and I'm just a ‘Joe Bag of Doughnuts,’ ink-stained wretch from a little town in Minnesota, and my Mona Lisa is holding a stinky fish,” said Brown, who also posted a humorous video about the encounter on his Facebook page.
So far, response to “Da Fishi Code: Serious and Not-So Serious Stories from da Rivers, Lakes, Fields, and Life,” has been favorable, Brown says, and he’s having a good time marketing the book. Beaver’s Pond Press made arrangements for Amazon to sell the book, and it’s also available at several retail outlets, his website and, most recently, Kowalski’s Markets, a chain of a dozen grocery stores throughout the Twin Cities metro area.
“I’ve had grandmas and moms and nieces” write and say they enjoy the stories, Brown said. “Men and women who don’t fish much and they certainly haven’t fly-fished, but they get a kick out of vicariously being there on the water.
“The end product is exactly what I wanted it to be – just short and sweet stories that make people either smile or laugh out loud.”
On the web:
About the book
Title: “Da Fishi Code: Serious and Not-So-Serious Stories from da Rivers, Lakes, Fields, and Life.”
Author: Dan J. Brown.
Publisher: Beaver’s Pond Press, St. Paul.
Price: $17.95 U.S.; $23.95 Canada.