Uncovering hidden history in Wisconsin authors’ latest novel

alter Rhein and Dan Woll talk manipulation and correlation in their new book

More stories from Kaitlyn Zenner


Photo by Elena Dawson

Dan Woll and Walter Rhein talk about the book they co-authored, called “Paperclip.”

Everyone has experienced a series of events so unlikely that it’s difficult not to believe the world must be related in some way.

“A famous psychologist C.G. Jung called it synchronicity,” Dan Woll, co-author of the new book “Paperclip,” said. “I’m not a conspiracy guy, but I have this sense that somehow things are connected in the world in a way that we don’t really understand.”

This term, synchronicity, is the underlying theme of 2001 UW-Eau Claire graduate Walter Rhein, and 1970 UW-Madison graduate Dan Woll’s new suspenseful thriller “Paperclip.” Woll said he initially brought the novel to life, writing a first draft and subsequently handing the torch off to Rhein, who helped rewrite and rework the rough draft to create a finished product. The collaboration generated the level of creativity needed to bring the book together, the two said. Woll said Rhein’s role was a critical role in the creation of the book.

“I kind of get down this road where I write stories that are too hard for me to finish” Woll said. “I’m friends with Walter and he’s an author too, and he said ‘let me look under the hood and see what I can do.’ I like collaborations, and I think we’re a good team.”

“Paperclip,” a piece of historical fiction, follows the lives of characters Carlie and Mickey as they struggle to transcend their corrupted circumstances of governmental drug experimentation.

“You’ve got this vortex of mind-control drugs and people that are hypersensitive to it, and then you get a protagonist, an antagonist and a little romance,” Woll said. “You’ve got kind of a fun story.”

Both Woll and Rhein were given the opportunity to discuss their journey of becoming successful authors at an event at the Chippewa Falls Public Library on Feb. 9. Joe Niese, Chippewa Falls Public Library director, said he found the authors to appear at the event in a Volume One article.

“I always try to support local authors, and to have someone from Chippewa here is about as local as it gets for the public library downtown,” Niese said. “I think both Rhein and Woll are both polished authors and speakers.”

Rhein, who said he’s always excited to get involved within the community, encourages local writers to reach out to him through his email. 

“Anybody who wants to have a discussion on writing, I’d like to do a regular kind of writing group around here,” Rhein said.

Woll said “Paperclip” is able to draw the reader in to the story by exploiting concealed history.

“It’s really a fascinating piece of history that is coming to life,” Woll said. “History is interesting, and particularly untold stories. I think if you’re fascinated by these sorts of coincidences or connections you don’t quite get, but you know they’re real, I think you’ll like the book.”

Rhein said he agreed, emphasizing the exciting and unpredictable nature of the book that will capture the reader’s attention.

“If anyone’s just bored with the standard release or ever complains that there’s nothing out there to watch or to read, just pick up something like this,” Rhein said.

Zenner can be reached at [email protected].