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Book Nook: Baby's First Felony, by John Straley

I did not know it at the time but I began heading down the path to recording this interview with John Straley when I was in the third grade. I remember it like it happened yesterday. We had eaten lunch in the cafeteria at St. Augustin's School in Des Moines. Then I went out to play during recess with my best pal. His name was Jimmy Percival. We were over admiring the rose bushes blooming in front of the convent when an older kid, a fourth grader we didn't know came running over to us and starting beating up my buddy, Jimmy. I intervened and rescued Jimmy from the wee thug who had been pummeling him for no reason at all. The older boy's name was and is Timothy Riley. That is how I met him.

By the time I was in high school Tim and I had become close friends. Tim went off to college in Bellingham, Washington. We have stayed in touch all these years. After Tim moved our west he kept heading north and ended up in Sitka, Alaska. He's still there. A number of years ago Tim suggested that I might enjoy a series of crime novels written by John Straley that feature a character named Cecil Younger. Straley lives in Sitka and the books are set there. Tim sent me a copy of one of the books and I loved it. I have read them all.

The author wrote half a dozen Cecil Younger books then he stopped adding on to the series to focus on other projects like writing poetry. Finally after a hiatus of 17 years Straley decided to write another Cecil Younger book. "Baby's First Felony" is the name of it and when I heard about it I thought, I have to try to get an interview with John! So I did.

During our conversation he explained how his character Cecil has some things in common with him. For example, Cecil is a criminal defense investigator in Sitka and the author was until recently a criminal defense investigator. Cecil is married to a woman who studies whales. Cecil's wife studies whales, too!

John explained that the main reason he revived the series was because he simply had too many jokes piling up. He had to have someplace to put them. If you like really bad jokes you need to read this book. It is also a non-stop, rip-roaring, page turning, thriller. Well worth the wait.

So I suppose after all these years I need to thank my friend Tim for beating up my buddy Jimmy on that long ago day in Des Moines. And I really need to thank Tim for turning me on to these books. I also need to thank John for writing them and for doing such a lovely interview. I also want to express my deep gratitude to John Straley for telling me about the Cheeto Bandito.

The Book Nook on WYSO is presented by the Greene County Public Library with additional support from Washington-Centerville Public Library,  Clark County Public LibraryDayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.

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