Mark Reps spins real life-inspired events into bestselling mystery stories.
Woodbury writer Mark Reps has published more than 15 novels, including his Amazon-bestselling mystery/crime series about small town sheriff Zeb Hanks. But his prolific and popular books belie the winding path he took to his current career. He grew up in southeastern Minnesota and has lived in the Twin Cities for most of his adult life, calling Woodbury home since 2020. “It’s so nice. Woodbury’s just a great place
to live,” Reps says.
Reps has a degree in mathematics, and spent many years as a chiropractor and acupuncturist in St. Paul, inspired by alternative treatments he received as a young man to relieve symptoms
of his debilitating Crohn’s disease.
Reps would regale his patients with stories from his life and travels, and they often told him he should look into writing. So he did. “I started writing my first novel, Heartland Heroes, based on something that had happened to me as a child,” says Reps, who originally published it in 2010.
That ability to imagine new details and add new twists to real life events would become the foundation of his popular Zeb Hanks series; the first installment was published in 2013.
One day, Reps and his wife were hiking, scouting for some of the ancient Indigenous ruins that dot the landscape around Safford—a town over two hours away from their summer home in Chandler, Arizona. “The road got so bad, we had to park the car and walk,” Reps says. “I carried a gun with me because of the animals around. When we were about half a mile down the road, I saw a truck parked by my car.” Worried about
a robbery, Reps fired his gun in the air. “I thought, ‘Uh-oh.’ This guy comes down to me, about 65 or 70 years old, with his son and grandson. And tells me he’s a retired sheriff.”
Reps explained to the man that he was looking for ruins. “The sheriff said, ‘Hop in the back of the truck. We’ll drive you as far as we’re going. Then come over tonight for steak and beer,’” he says. They did. The sheriff shared tales of his life as a prototypical Western lawman, who was also a rancher, riding horses and roping cattle. “He was rough-hewn, weather worn and just the perfect character,” Reps says. The author imagined the sheriff as a young man, added some new details, and Zeb Hanks was born.
Over the course of 13 books (so far), Reps has had Hanks involved in all elements of life in Safford. “I try to write about something topical in each book,” he says.
He turns to Arizona experts for feedback and ideas whenever possible. “The sheriff of Graham County is a friend of mine, and he reads my books,” Reps says. He’s also friends with several elders in the Apache, Hopi and Ute tribes, who help him create accurate illustrations of their traditions and belief systems. Even though Reps has sold his winter house, he visits often. “I live the life of a local,” he says. “I have a feel for what’s going on. It’s only fair to my readers that it’s genuine.”
Find Reps’ books on Amazon and at markreps.com.