When Leonard Ruhl was in eighth grade somebody asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. A writer or a judge was his answer. Louise Glaveston won an award for best scary story in her school when she was in ninth grade. She did not start writing in earnest until years later. Sherry Kline and her writing partner, the late Elaine Evans Clark, wanted to preserve the stories of their hometown, Mayfield. Kevin Plumb wanted to write a book about a bright, confident female detective.
The writers signed copies of their books and talked to interested readers the evening of Nov. 26 at the Wellington Public Library. The library sponsored a celebration of local authors.
Ruhl, a long-time prosecutor and now a district judge has achieved his other career goal of becoming a writer and with the publication of his first novel, “Verdict Denied.” The protagonist of the mystery thriller is a judge who is about to try a death penalty case with connections to a Mexican drug cartel. Three days before the trial, the bad guys kidnap the judge’s sister and threaten to kill her if the judge doesn’t let the defendant walk. The judge cannot go to the police because then he would be disqualified from the case and his sister will be killed. He has to rely on his own wits, seek help from trusted allies and plunge the dark underworld of the drug trade to free his sister.
“Verdict Denied” is set in a small Kansas town called Worthington, based on Wellington with several sites in the book based on actual places here. A lot of publishers were on the two coasts and were not interested in a story set in Kansas so Ruhl self-published the book.
“My book is a Midwestern book,” he said. “It doesn’t have an East or West Coast ethos. It’s almost like I’m trying to sell bacon to vegans.”
While Ruhl incorporated into the book some details he has had on the judge’s bench, most of it was based on his experiences as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office where he became familiar with Mexican drug cartels and their gruesomely violent ways of doing business. A reviewer on Amazon compared Ruhl to the writer, Cormac McCarthy (author of such books as “No Country for Old Men” and “Blood Meridian") for the level of violence in his book. He dedicated the book to his wife, Amy, and children, Will and Caroline, but said his children are too young to read the book.
It took around five years and hundreds of revisions before Ruhl was satisfied with the book. During the process, he read several books on creative writing and creating scenes.
“At the end of a scene, something has to change,” Ruhl said. “There has to be conflict and there has to be change.”
In his day job, Ruhl is known as District Judge William Mott, presiding over cases mostly in Sumner County. He adopted the pseudonym to keep his role as a judge separate from his writing persona.
Glaveston said, “I didn’t know I was a writer. But I would write answers on essays on tests that were a mile long. I had to get every detail.”
Her first taste of fame as a writer came when she was in ninth grade in Baldwin, Kansas. It was around Halloween and she won her high school’s contest for the best scary short story. It was not until years later that she took up writing again, and just as her horror story used humor, her kids’ books do as well.
She has written two books in a series, “By the Grace of Todd” and “In Todd We Trust.” In the book, a civilization of tiny creatures have been generated from the dirt on the smelly baseball sock underneath Todd’s bed.
“I’m a humor writer,” Glaveston said. In her day job, she directs plays and teaches dramas at Wellington High School.
Sherry Kline and her friend, Mary Evans Clark, got the idea for their non-fiction book about the tiny Sumner County town of Mayfield after Clark received an old quilt with several names on it and started researching the people behind the names.
The book was published in 2003 by Hillsboro Free Press after “a couple of years of messing around” and a couple of years when the two women got down to arduous research and sometimes worked 16 hour days putting the book together. They took old stories from current and former Mayfield residents and borrowed over 700 photos to place in the book. The hardback book weighs 5.2 pounds.
“We both felt that Mayfield was a special little town,” Kline said. “I imagine if you went to a lot of small towns they would say that. This just happened to be our small town.”
Clark has passed away since the book was published, but her widower, Larry Clark, sat with Kline for a while.
Kevin Plumb’s book, “Clever as the Devil” features as its protagonist private eye Kimber Cassidy. He wanted to create a “female character who was tough, confident and smart.
“I had the character in my head. It took me a while to form the puzzle in my head for the crime. Once I had that I sat down to write.”
Plumb’s next book in the Kimber Cassidy series, “The Devil Doubles Down” should be out in January.