‘A Stratton Lake Mystery’
Waupaca music teacher writes book
By Angie Landsverk
Greg Biba was raking a beach on Stratton Lake when his mind drifted to thoughts about the Great Depression and gangsters.
“A Stratton Lake Mystery” is the result of the ideas that came to him on that hot day about three years ago.
He self-published the book this past June.
The Waupaca Middle School band teacher was working at the cottage he and his wife Dawn own, getting the beach ready for another summer of swimming.
“What if I raked up something cool like a gun?” he said to himself that day. “Then I thought, ‘OK – get back to work.’”
Biba continued working, but his mind kept going elsewhere.
“Then I thought, ‘What if I found moonshine?’” Biba said.
He looked up the hill at their blue cottage.
Built in 1928, the cottage was among the first on the lake.
Dawn’s father, the late Wally Wilkening, bought it years later.
“Her dad came up here from Chicago after the war and Depression,” Biba said. “He worked in the steel mills of Chicago. He wanted to be a farmer.”
Biba’s father-in-law had been to this area as a child and bought 100 acres.
A soil agent told him the land was too sandy for the type of farming Wilkening wanted to do.
“So he subdivided it,” Biba said.
Lakes Charles, Patrick Lane and Dawn Drive are named after Wilkening’s children.
At one time, Wilkening owned a string of cottages on Stratton Lake.
The Bibas bought the blue cottage from him around 1990.
It is the setting for Biba’s book.
“I just started writing notes. I always have a pen and scrap paper on me,” he said. “I worked on it off and on the last three years.”
During high school, he was interested in writing.
Then music took over.
He has taught instrumental music for more than 30 years, including 25 years at WMS.
“I don’t know what it was that day,” Biba said of how his mystery on Stratton Lake came to be.
His story takes place in 1929 and involves Al Capone, a hideout and two sisters.
Biba said it is known that Capone traveled from Chicago to Hayward, in northern Wisconsin.
He likes to think Capone could have been in the Waupaca area.
“There’s some true stuff in the book,” Biba said.
This includes some of his father-in-law’s background, as well as the fact there is a camp on the lake.
The camp’s beach is visible from the Biba’s cottage.
The names of some of the characters in the book are familiar as well.
It is someone named “Greg” who pulls an old Mason jar out of the lake while raking the beach.
His wife is named “Dawn,” and the two children in the story share the same names as the Biba’s children, “Adam and Kaylee.”
As Biba worked on his book, Dawn and Pat Wilkening let him bounce ideas off them.
Biba also worked with local writers, editors, librarians and others during his writing process.
That included Hannah Kelley, Richard Sweitzer, Pat Phair, Bill Riemer, Peggy Riemer, Sarah Hanneman, Lori Jungers, Dan Gengler and Mary Gengler.
Jaiden Bovee was his student editor.
After three years of revisions, Biba decided that was enough.
The book was printed at Chain O’ Lakes Litho.
Tricia Price, the middle school’s art teacher, did the art for the cover.
“A Stratton Lake Mystery” is sold locally at the Bookcellar, Little Fat Gretchen’s, Lucky Tree, Main Street Marketplace, Office Outfitters and Waupaca River Gallery & Gifts.
Copies of the book are also available at the Waupaca Area Public Library, and will also be at Waupaca Middle School’s library.
Biba is already working on the sequel.
“There’s a cliffhanger at the end,” he said of his first book. “We acquired the Capone loot, and we’re going on an adventure.”
Since he, Dawn and their two children are certified scuba divers, he came up with the idea of the next book being about hunting for treasure.
“In real life, there are salvage hunters who go looking for sunken treasures,” Biba said.
“Hunt for the Black Coral” is the name of the next book.
The characters travel to Pensacola, Florida where they hook up with Captain Steven Schultz to hunt for black coral, he said.
“He (the captain) decided to take us into the Bermudea Triangle,” Biba said.
Biba is about a quarter way though writing this book.
“Adam and Kaylee are especially running into trouble. Captain Steven has a shady past,” he said.
Biba is doing research on scuba diving and hurricanes for the book, which he hopes to complete within the next year.
“I started working on the sequel while I was finishing up the other one. I’m going to keep going. That’s the idea,” he said. “I have an idea of how I want to work on the third book some day, but that could change.”
“A Stratton Lake Mystery” is not his first published book.
He wrote a book about how to repair band instruments while completing his master’s degree.
That gave him the confidence to write his Stratton Lake mystery.
Of his latest writing project, Biba said, “I’m enjoying working on it. I’m learning a lot from other professionals who have been doing it for many years.”