Author driven by search for justice
After five years of research, writing and re-writing, author Christine Hunt of rural New Richmond has released her first solo book.
"The Orchid Murder: Untangling a web of unsolved murders and legal malpractice" follows the decades-long story of a Twin Cities businessman wrongfully accused of causing the death of a former employee.
A freelance writer and editor for many years, Hunt was approached by the family of Norm Wartnick to write his account of the legal struggle.
When she was chosen to write the book, Hunt said she was given a thin folder full of newspaper articles related to the 1973 murder of Bob Nachtscheim, a former employee of Wartnick's who'd been gunned down in his flower supply shop. At the time of the murder, Nachtscheim was removing a flat of orchids from a cooler, and Twin Cities journalists dubbed the tragedy the "orchid murder."
"I thought to myself, 'this will be easy. I should be done with this in a few months," she recalled.
The project would actually take five years to complete.
"Once I started my fact checking, I was appalled at what this man had been put through," Hunt said. "The injustice of it all. I knew this was a story that had to be told and this was a man that needed to be vindicated."
Over the course of the project, Hunt wrote five full versions of the story. The first one was a fictionalized account of the facts, she explained. Eventually, the book turned into a non-fiction recounting of the murder and the legal battles that followed.
"It was a fascinating story to learn about and write," she said.
Hunt pored over volumes of court records and interviewed various players in the real-life drama. As she dug deeper into the story, her frustration with the injustice done to Wartnick only grew.
"I spent months studying justice," she said. "What is the basis for justice and why we have a basic desire for justice. Once I had a firm grasp on why justice is so important, I could write the story."
With so much information, much of it gathered from legal documents that were often difficult to comprehend, Hunt said she had to weave a story together that would capture the attention of readers.
"I had to synthesize it down to where it was not only understandable but also entertaining to read," she said. "It was a very long, tedious process. I've been told I should get an honorary law degree based on what I had to go through to get this book published."
Hunt said she's convinced that her efforts to find justice for Wartnick paid off. People who have already read the book, which was just released in October, have admitted that they couldn't put the volume down until they reached the end.
"What I hope the reader gets out of it is not only the fight for justice ... but a better grasp of the legal system and how it works," Hunt said. "If readers ever find themselves in a similar situation, they'll have an understanding of what to expect."
She said real-life courtroom activity isn't at all similar to fictional television dramas.
"I hope the book demystifies what happens in courtrooms," she said.
Hunt said she also hopes the book brings closure to the Wartnick family members, who have drawn closer together through all the trials they've faced through the decades.
"I hope it brings healing and closure," she said.
The book, which will get its official launch in May, is now available for sale online through Amazon and Barnes & Nobles. Bookstores should also be able to order the book for customers.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Hunt moved to the New Richmond area in 2005 as a result of her husband's job change.
Hunt has been a writer since she was 15 and continues to work as a freelance editor, designer and writer.
"It's always been my passion, and bane, at times," she said of her craft.
Hunt has helped to write four books in the past, either as a ghost writer or co-author. "The Orchid Murder" is her first solo project, but it won't be her last. She's currently working on a fictional story based on the orchid murder case.
She is also working on a screenplay and other projects, which she's not ready to spill the beans about just yet.
Her home-based writing and editing business is called Right Line Editing and Design.