Author giving talk at south metro bookstore

L.S. Hawker has new book is crime tale set in Kansas

Posted 1/22/19

It’s May 1986 and a reader is hooked in on pages 2-3 of “The Throwaways,” by Littleton author L.S. Hawker … Ungrounded George Engle, who had just learned of law school admission that day, was …

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Author giving talk at south metro bookstore

L.S. Hawker has new book is crime tale set in Kansas

Posted

It’s May 1986 and a reader is hooked in on pages 2-3 of “The Throwaways,” by Littleton author L.S. Hawker …

Ungrounded George Engle, who had just learned of law school admission that day, was in his car with a girl — and then she wasn’t there … a nearby house explodes, George finds a bag of incriminating stuff in his car and we’re off and running! So is he! The scene is Lawrence, Kansas. (Where the author, a Colorado native, graduated from KU with a journalism degree.)

Hawker will talk about her new book at 7 p.m. on Jan. 26 at Tattered Cover, Aspen Grove, 7301 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton. (Those who buy a book will be invited to a special after-party, she said.)

The casual book talks at the store are a pleasant way to learn what’s new and find a sense of the writer’s personality and style.

“All of my books are set in Kansas,” Hawker told me. “I want to honor Kansas … love those small towns.” Her mother was from Lincoln, and she saw it as “storybook land,” where she could walk and bike freely when visiting her grandparents.

She grew up in the Englewood area — the part now called Centennial — and started writing “at 8 years old, while at Walnut Hills Elementary School, a progressive school. I spent four years reading and writing — little fantasy stories …” Her teacher asked: “Does somebody have to die?” Answer? “Yes!” She attended Cherry Creek High School.

An eager and advanced reader, she was fascinated with accounts of the Manson Family. (“My mother was terrified.”) She read true crime books and watched like shows. Podcasts are now included in source material. In the early 2000s, she designed a website and has “kept on the edge of technology.” Which is involved with the Kansas setting, “the silicon prairie, where land and labor are cheap. Available workers earn good pay and the cost of living is low.”

While her bestselling first book, “Drowning Game,” is told from the female perspective, this book is not, which was a problem for Harper and Row, publisher of her first three books. She determined to publish independently, since the major characters are men in “The Throwaways.”

“I was the kind of girl who hung out with guys a lot,” she says. “I listened to them talk — in a linear fashion. Women hop back and forth.”

Curt Dekker, an artistic young man, also a high school buddy of George, first appeared in her “Drowning Game” as a much older man. He, Bill and Travis, also high school friends help carry the story as mysterious things develop. Each brings personal qualities, perspectives and interests as they react to George’s dilemma.

George takes us back for family history: he had twin brothers who died as teens and the parents focus on their perceived perfection, caring less about George …

In addition to prairie high tech, drug crime also enters the picture, with Kansas criminals on George’s trail — remember the bag of powder, bloody knife, gun and gas can? Remember the explosion George witnessed?

Other more casual acquaintances weave through the world Hawker creates and storylines begin to connect. A reader tends to stay up late!

This writer is always at work on another book. She has three out and more in the works. Her books have been translated into nine languages.

Her process? “Totally a pantzer!” Seat of the pants approach: “I make an outline and let characters show the way … I’m always rolling stuff in my head.”

She says she’s a “binge writer” — 16 hours at a time and has enjoyed contacts with her writer’s critique group: Highlands Ranch Fiction Writers, although she’s gotten busier and doesn’t make it as often. A book a year seems to be the right pace … She also attends writers’ retreats and recommends those contacts for anyone who wants to publish.

She has two daughters: The older is finishing Harvard Law School and has a job lined up in Washington D.C. The younger is a film graduate from Denver School of the Arts. Her engineer husband “is the guy I brainstorm with.” He has gotten interested in painting, she said.

The striking cover design was by Welsh artist Mark Thomas, who was recommended by a source. “And my agent suggested the title,” Hawker said. “Titles are hard.”

All those pieces come together in “The Throwaways,” ideal for that snowy day by the fireplace.

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