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Pressing Matters - Reviews

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Tobin's Tome Captures Pressures on Small–Town Papers

I've known Larry Tobin since he worked for the Wisconsin Legislature and wrote speeches for Lt. Gov. Marty Schreiber.

He was one of my sources almost 40 years ago when John Patrick Hunter and I covered the State Capitol at a time when legislators railed at each other during the day and played poker and drank highballs together at night.

While there, Larry fell in love with a weekly newspaperman's daughter and he and his wife, the former Kathy Branen, eventually wound up in the news business themselves, first with a small weekly in southern Wisconsin and then as owners and co-publishers of the Tomahawk Leader, one of northern Wisconsin's finest weekly newspapers.

Tobin has now taken another step in his already fine career. Like a lot of us old newspaper guys threaten to do, he's actually gone and done it -- he's written the great American novel.

Well, OK, it might not be that fabled great novel, but it's darn good.

He calls it "Pressing Matters" and it's all about a small-town weekly newspaper publisher who uses the state's open records law to uncover a scandal involving the local police chief and other kingpins in the community. In pursuit of the story, the publisher and his paper endure advertising boycotts and subscription cancellations, not to mention the intimidation that small-town cops can bring against people who cross them. The publisher's family becomes a target.

It all makes for a riveting story, and the descriptive way he tells it will keep the reader turning the pages to see what happens next. Without revealing the plot, suffice it to say that the story takes a tragic twist along the way.

You don't have to be a newspaper junkie to like this book. It's an excellent story that will capture the interest of any reader. Tobin's knowledge of small towns and the role that a newspaper plays in them helps give the story an authenticity that only good novels have.

You can order the book from amazon.com, ask your favorite local bookstore to get it for you or you can e-mail the author himself at larrymtobin.com.

Zweifel, David. The Capitol Times October 13, 2008

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'Pressing Matters' truly great

"Pressing Matters," a novel by Larry M. Tobin (Father's Press), is an absolutely great read. It will appeal to everyone, but particularly to anyone who has ever lived in a suburb or small town with a weekly or bi-weekly paper and the coffee groups that meet each morning to share the latest gossip.

It is the story of Preston "Press" Williams, owner of the Fremont Weekly Gazette, and how, along with his editor, Barry McGinn, he took on police chief, Derek Nordstrom, for not revealing certain incidents and arrests on the police report.

It is when he learns at "coffee" that one of Fremont's residents is asking why there was nothing in the paper about Fremont Mayor West Hartley getting picked up again for drunk driving – and he learns that it is the third time, that the paper's investigation begins.

As the investigation moves forward, readers learn of the progress, or lack thereof, plus new questions relative to "what's going on" at the cop shop, through Williams editorial column "Pressing Matters."

As the investigation continues and more is divulged to the public, the harassment of William's family by the chief begins. Williams answered it in his column. "It's certainly comforting knowing that my family and I will not be mugged or visited by some unlawful calamity these days. I guess that's the kind of service you can expect from a small town police force. Fremont Police Chief Derek Nordstrom has attached himself to the Williams bunch so tightly lately thateven our shadows can't find a bit of room to lengthen in the winter sun..."

So great was my curiosity as to what evolved next, I found it was difficult to put the book down.

It is a read that will make you gasp with anger and cry in frustration. But, it is a novel with a message – reader's of any local newspaper have the right to know the truth, no matter how far one has to go to dig it out.

Tobin and his wife, Kathy, who met at a Wisconsin Newspaper Convention, eventually purchased the Tomahawk Leader, where Larry sold advertising, ran the business and wrote a weekly column. Kathy served as editor.

Their two children, son Kerry, and daughter Kelly, are now grown, and Tobins now divide their time between their home in the Northwoods and their Montana log cabin. We understand Larry has another novel underway – one we will watch for. "Pressing Matters" should be on everyone's "must read" list..

The 340-page novel may be purchased for $16.98 through Amazon.com

Laabs, Joyce. The Lakeland Times July 3, 2008

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Who would have 'thunk' it? In praise of the lowly burdock

About 35 years ago, I was startled to read in Time magazine that a big-time journalist had purchased the weekly paper in my little hometown and planned on running it himslef.

His name was Edwin Goodpaster and at the time of the Time story, he was Time's deputy bureau chief in Washington D.C.

So Ed moved his family from our nation's capital to tiny Whitehall and made a very big splash with his little weekly. If itwas a slow news week, which was most of the time, Ed ran high school sports stories on the front page and put the boring stuff in the back.

When school opened, Ed showed up at the school board meeting to take notes. The board informed him that it was meeting in secret.

Ed told the board that was against the law. That was news to the board, but its members swallowed hard and Ed covered the proceedings like a very heavy carpet.

Ed eventually sold the paper and went back to Washington as undersecretary of agriculture and later Washington bureau chief of the Baltimore Sun. But not before he got a healthy taste of small-town life and the small-towners got a taste of him.

I mention all of this because I recently received a fine new novel, "Pressing Matters," by Larry M. tobin (Father's Press, Lee's Summit, Mo., $16.98).

Tobin's new book is the story of a small-town weekly in Wisconsin and the adventures of its editor, Preston Williams, who reminds me of Ed Goodpaster. It's a rousing good story of an editor's family life, of corruption at Citty Hall.

My favorite line is the narrator's: Most people already know the town news before the paper comes out on Wednesday. The only reason they read the paper is to see how many mistakes it has committed.


Wood, Dave. River Falls Journal, The Hastings Star-Gazette, New Richmond News, Woodbury Bulletin September 3, 2008

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People Make the Difference

Tobin, publisher of the Tomahawk Leader, got the writing bug when he was a high school freshman and his English teacher, impressed by a short story assignment, told him he could do a lot with his talent.

Tobin, along with his wife, Kathy, have owned the Tomahawk Leader for 28 years. He has always wanted to write a novel. Several years ago, he decided the time was right to fulfill the dream.

The result was "Pressing Matters," 340 easy-reading pages. It combines political intrigue, treachery with community newspapering.

Tobin takes readers from a coffee shop rumor about the mayor's drunk-driving habit, which never shows up on the police log, to a police chief who operates from both sides of his badge.

Weekly newspaper publisher Preston "Press" Williams investigates the rumors. His digging shatters his life and family, as well as his small-town's serenity.

Mike Smitley, author of "Implied Contract," said, "'Pressing Matters' is a masterful piece of work. Tobin has a unique style of writing that employs both tension and emotion to keep the reader involved from beginning to end."

I've read the book. I know five other people who have read it and we all agreed that the book was interesting and well written. Tobin describes the scenes in great detail. Once you start reading to find out what happens next.

The story takes place in the Wisconsin-Minnesota area. When a small-town weekly newspaper investigates and exposes some under-the-table land deals involving trusted city leaders, there can be consequences.

In "Pressing Matters," the newspaper staff deals with powerful people, a town in denial and personal tragedy, but the truth needs to be told. Buy a book for yourself and copies to give as Christmas gifts.

The book also is available at Book World in Eagle River and can be ordered through Amazon.com.


McNutt, Byron. Vilas County News-Review/The Three Lakes News October 1, 2008

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© 2008 Larry M. Tobin. All rights reserved.