OXFORD – After years of being known as a high school math teacher, volleyball coach, fly-fisherman, husband and father, long-time Oxford resident and retired teacher Jim Mortensen has added yet another title: novelist.
Mortensen’s first novel, “Minimum Competency: A novel about education, testing, life and death in upstate New York,” hit bookstore and online bookseller shelves last month.
“I’ve always written,” the retired teacher said. Until now, however, much of that writing has been of the non-fiction variety. Throughout much of his teaching career, he wrote a regular column for Freshwater and Marine Aquarium magazine. He also published two non-fiction books, the first in 1979 on fly fishing and a second in the 1980s on tropical fish.
According to Mortensen, his first foray into fiction was inspired by an article he read about a school principal being investigated for tampering with standardized test scores.
“What if you wanted to cheat,” Mortensen said he asked himself, “how would you do it?”
The result of his creative effort is a Carl Hiaasen-esque murder mystery with a healthy dose of commentary on New York’s education system and life in upstate New York, both of which Mortensen says he has strong opinions on.